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Dick Diver - New Start Again

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Artist: Dick Diver

Album: New Start Again

Label: Chapter Music

Review date: Nov. 7, 2011

Pretty sure I burned out on Fitzgerald before getting into Tender is the Night. Had I hung in there a little longer, I wouldn’t have had to struggle with this band’s name like I did. At face value, the name fits snugly within the current trend of knowing, slightly doofy band handles coming out of Australia (UV Race, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Deaf Wish, etc.). Refreshingly, when I finally put the record on it had me scrambling to over-correct for my (well-founded!) presumptions. “Oh, OK, it’s NOT another slam-dunk dark punk slop job from Melbourne — it’s a well-mannered jangle-popper from Melbourne. Their name is ironic. I get it.”

Accidentally stumbling upon the literary origin of the band name (one of the central characters in Tender…) really brought things into focus. It rings true with the narrative, impressionistic storytelling and efficient hook-stacking that Dick Diver excel at. The two big names being dropped around this band are Television and fellow Aussies The Go-Betweens, and after listening to the the band’s Arks Up EP from earlier this year, the Television touchstone comes through clearer — there’s a ragged, kinetic energy between Rupert Edwards and Alistair McKay’s guitar interplay that seems dialed down on New Start Again. The EP has a raw, shambling looseness, an unvarnished, accidental charm that can only come from not caring because you have no one to impress.

In the brief few months between the EP’s release and this new full-length, sufficient hype and expectations have formed around the band back home. Such is the way of the modern music machine. Get your act together or be left huffing the exhaust of 1,000 bands stepping on your heels. For better or for worse, the ever-accelerating creation myth cycles of the blogosphere machinery does occasionally produce a complete package — bands that arrive seemingly fully-formed, vision intact.

Although it’s a simple one, Dick Diver is one of these bands. They had their angles squared up from the outset and now they’re throwing on the sconces and gargoyles. What New Start Again lacks in naive charm, it makes up for with the widening range and color spectrum that often come with a band gaining confidence and becoming more conversant as a group. The opening couplets of “Through The D” and “Hammock Days” get right down to business, showcasing the new refinement with weaving guitar lines and instantly memorable vocal melodies that hold their own with the mighty Robert Forster and Grant McLennan at the height of their powers. A lot of bands get compared to The Go-Betweens these days, but almost none of them sound a fig like them. Or if they do, it’s inevitably the early “punk” period. I love “Lee Remick” as much as anyone, but it’s hardly representative of their output as a band and as solo artists. Dick Diver actually sound like a pretty even split between the well-groomed pop dandies that produced Spring Hill Fair and the slacker pop bands that followed in their wake. “Interstate Forever” is the best “Box Elder” rewrite I’ve heard all year.

Not to be ungrateful for the embarrassment of riches Australia has been producing lately, but it’s nice to know that there are good bands working the other side of the field from Radio Birdman and The Scientists. This ain’t twee, but I would imagine a band who sounds as relatively sculpted and literate as this one might actually be something like outsiders in the current Melbourne climate. All the more commendable that they’re prepared to sit in this abandoned corner of Aussie music history alone for the meantime. Then again, guys with lines like “Ignoring each other like toothbrushes in a cup” usually sit alone.

By Jon Treneff

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