Everyone hears the tiniest ringing bell when they hear the name The Dials. No it’s not faerie magick, it’s the fact that with a couple bands a year taking the name, everyone’s heard of a Dials. Most don’t last, but this one, named after the 7 Dials area of Brighton, has been together for 15 years. Their started out with an indie garage psych sound equally informed by a country folk twang, with some nice Hollies/CSN&Y styled harmonies and vintage keyboards. They also made the news when they were trapped in a bank vault while recording their second album, Companions Of The Rosy Hours (2009), and had to be rescued by nine firemen. Their first two are very solid, with third album, The End Of The Pier (2013) had them stretching out a bit, such as the space surf rock of “Mondo Space.” However their fourth sees them reaching a whole new level.
60s influenced psychedelia has always had a solid cult following, with certain bands paying tribute to the style with some success every decade, such as XTC‘s alter-ego The Dukes Of Stratosphear in the 80s, and more recently the now defunct The Hidden Masters. Like the latter, The Dials, have incorporated a touch of prog circa 1969 into their repertoire, along the lines of early Yes, Pink Floyd and Caravan. But rather than the tight, muscular approach of Cream, they still inhabit the more melodic pop side of The Who and The Zombies.
There is a clean, sparkling modernity in their production along the lines of contemporaries Tame Impala and Temples with a touch of the dark, jangly pop of Scotland’s The Sea Kings and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, thanks in part to production work by Ben Thackeray, who’s worked with Cave. Instrumental “The Narc” has a bubbly, percolating sound that recalls Stereolab. The keyboard sounds are, however, decidedly not modern, with vintage pump organs, Moogs and mellotrons.
The album starts out with a mellow psych prog groove on “Once” with a loping tempo, a squiggly synth line and smooth harmonies. Singer Andy Taylor’s jazzy keyboard solos are a nice touch. First single “Cuckoo Stone” is driven by a simple but sinister guitar line from Dermot Watson, with tight harmonies and all sorts of fun embellishments that make it a good introductory single for the album. “The Moon And The Stars And The Tides Of The Sea” is a Bavarian style waltz that wouldn’t be my cup of tea if it didn’t ooze a dark, smoky atmosphere. “Everlast” was originally 25 minutes, the mellow jam pared down to a more manageable 6:37 here. “Heathen Sun” is a cheerful ditty about alien abduction, the villagers shrugging at the dwindling population of children.
“The Race” is a standout, reminding me of some of the spacier Blue Öyster Cult tunes with Byrds harmonies. “Sail No More” deals with nuclear dread aboard a submarine, which is unfortunately all too relevant once again. The album finishes off with the liquid Floydian dreams of “That Was The Future,” with a melody that provokes both hope and sorrow. Gorgeous.
The Dials’ current niche of keyboard driven garage pop and psych prog may not be trendy right now, but to my ears it’s a contender for top ten of the year territory. | Buy