CD REVIEW: Dagger or a Dram - In the Fall
By: Levi Canfield
Dagger or a Dram
Weakness: Sympathetic Vocals, Tear For My Beer Ballads, Short Length
Boston pub rockers, Dagger or a Dram, hit home with their soulful roots rock. Consisting of a total five members, the band really is the brainchild of Tommy McKnight and James Chiarelli. Created for the simple fervor of whiskey and rock, they are now coming out with their sophomore album in April 2010. In The Fall has been getting good reviews online, and their local scene is buzzing. Known for having consistently tight shows and a strong connection to their audience, they have created quite a hype for themselves since their first show in mid 2008.
This album is considerably short for a full length LP. It has 8 full songs, and the song “Cross The Line” is remixed for the last track. Luckily in those total of 8 songs, the band does a pretty good job of filling up the entire record with a variety of listenable rockers. One of the first things noticed is the solid state of it’s production. All the mixing, and high/low ends are where they should be. Some of the more stand out tracks are “Wrecking Ball” and “Come One, Come All”. Since this whole album is generally guitar driven, the soulful and honest “Come One, Come All” stands out just for its sheer reliance on the piano melody. The song’s gentle taste is one of the most adventurous and beautiful tracks of the album. Then on the other side of the spectrum, the Onerepublic-esque rocker “Wrecking Ball” has the strong guitar drive that was talked about earlier. Done in an excellent manner with atmospheric strings, “Wrecking Ball” definitely is a song that will have the whole room stomping their feet along with the chorus. The taste for texture over melody is exemplified in the remix of “Cross The Line” by Asleep in a Box. The original seems more melodramatic to hurry along to the repeated chorus because that’s the only part of its entire 5 minutes you will remember. The more gripping and urgent remix by Asleep in a Box give a more spacious, yet chaotic race to the line, rather than a jaunty walk to it. This album definitely closes with one of it’s stronger numbers. It just begs the question of why even include the original in the first place if the remix is far superior?
The album’s biggest sloop is it’s deepest ballad “Call Me”. The chorus actually manages to make the title even seem cheesier then anyone could possibly imagine. Not only does this song feel long winded and overblown for a smaller payoff then slave labor, it also lets the listener peak at the cracks in Thomas Mcknight’s vocals. The vocals are not something to completely berate, but they aren’t significant enough to really be remembered. For that reason alone, that is why the song “An Apology” doesn’t work out. Another soft spoken simple guitar song might be a prerequisite for boozy sadness, but that’s not an excuse to make it boring. The clichéd question, “Have you ever let anybody down?” is something that we have all thought about, but this song just doesn’t seem to capture that feeling strong enough.
In the end Dagger or a Dram put out a record that shows a promising direction, but takes an undeveloped stand for itself. To make the album longer would just be adding boulders to the sinking ship. Hopefully the band manages to keep the flourishes into their deeper roots sides while polishing off their more rousing rockers on their next album. For now though, In The Fall keeps a determined group on track and gives it’s listeners if nothing else a few entertaining tracks to pass the time when waiting for a ride after last call.
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