It’s always great to find a rock band that can really speak to, and against, the current state of rock ‘n’ roll music, all the while discovering their confidence and swagger. Chicago’s Vee Dee has accomplished this with its own voice on their self-titled album, recently released and perhaps more emblematic of where the band is now, versus the five-year, work-in-progress sprawl across its double LP, Public Mental Health System.
No changes in lineup this time, but perhaps in worldview; the paranoid fears of the trio’s last album have callused over with realism and perhaps a bit of damage from the result. No more television nightmares. This third swing of the chain is a good deal bleaker and more mature, but cut from the same strobe-lit Tolex as what made its earlier records. Influences are becoming harder to spot, sunken below skin deep.
The kind of band that wants to imitate Hawkwind in a black box club on some weeknight is not here. “Howling at the Sun” starts things off with a thud, a slow psychotic number building gradually in heat, like the feeling you get when you know someone is staring at you from somewhere behind. Closer “Scrapping in the Streets” betrays such a title with the sort of broken music box rock operatics that served Alice Cooper so well on Easy Action. The whole record, particularly cuts like “Hello Angry Young Man” and “Endless Night,” falls in line with that sound, the Detroit-to-Seattle muscle hustle that pushed aside ’80s garage revivalism to kickstart grunge. For those living unsettled lives, this is going to fit you just fine, and Nick D’Vyne’s well-trained voice serves as the shit-eating grin you might not get to flash at anyone today.
These guys know who they are and where they’re at, and in their case, they’re near the top of a very small pile of worthwhile bands currently operating out of the Second City. As far as rock bands content to live in an eternal loop of history, well, Vee Dee’s one of them, but I’m sure any time spent with Vee Dee will remind you of how much fun that can be, and ultimately why we need to support a band going against the current in a time when the very simplicity and lack of compassion within rock music threatens to destroy it.