Dullparty: Anything but Dull
Dullparty is a mostly Norfolk, Nebraska based shoegaze band who have been around since 2018. I first covered them back in April when they opened for local pop-punk cover band Pop Shove-It. I was impressed with their sound and interesting stage presence. The band had used old skateboards as makeshift pedalboards, which is the coolest use of a skateboard for non-skateboarding purposes, bassist Jonas was sporting a dad hat and pigtails with pink booty shorts and low cut Timbs, which was a fantastically bizarre combo, and guitarist Tyler had been running in and out of the crowd while performing. Since then, I’ve covered a few more of their shows, most notably their appearance at Skate Fest, and oh hey the photos they paid me for that one time are the photos on their Spotify Bio. So, this review is going to be a bit biased, but where I have praise, I also have some constructive feedback.
It Could Be Worse is the band's first album, and right off the gate this is a banger. Well in a chill vibes only sense. The start of this album sets the moody, broody, strung-out vibe in its intro track “Introduction to Death,” when a voicemail of a woman, presumably Judy is screaming at a character while he takes a fat bong rip, claiming he is a no good “lazy piece of shit,” who is “sad all the time.” I don’t know if this voicemail is real, but it hints at what the album is most likely about. A traumatic relationship, and the conflicting feelings about ending it. A lot of the lyrical content of the album reflects these feelings with singer Danny crooning about not being good enough, claiming that he feels stupid and that his friends hate him. These anxieties, unwarranted as they may be, are feelings that most people have had, growing the connection between the listener and the band. And that is really the album, catharsis. Although I could just be projecting…
Last week, I had a recent semi-traumatic experience where I had been in contact with a past abuser. While I will not elaborate any further for my own privacy, I will say this album helped me process my feelings around it. I felt lethargic, disinterested, and numb to things that would typically bring me joy, which seem to be themes throughout the album. I wanted to avoid everything and pour myself into a puddle of nothing, and I felt kinship with this album as it meandered about, stuck in its own intrusive thoughts, wanting to feel something other than numb. I know that is kind of the point of shoegaze, but this album really nails the aesthetics, and I really connected with it.
Taking huge inspiration from shoegazers like Bedlocked, and Title fight, Dullparty injects an edge to their sound with shouty and sometimes screamy vocals, alongside lumbering, bassy guitar riffs, and a reverb laden "fuzzy" mix. The mix almost feels like a doom metal album, where the guitars and bass sort of form a drone, while the vocals, crisp and clear, laze about on vocal lines, with lyrical phrases sometimes overlapping musical phrases like one big run on sentence, half dazed, trying to make sense of complex feelings. This dreamy vocal phrasing is certainly one of the album's strengths as it puts Danny’s incredible talent at the forefront and helps give the band a distinct sound which allows them to stand out from the rest of the pack. While it is a key component for the band, I feel that I find myself lost in the dreamy sound as the album rolls through each of the songs. It’s not a huge detriment, but I feel in future albums, the band will need to shake it up a bit and not over-rely on it. Another stand out in the album is Tyler’s lead lines on guitars. The few solos he has on the album are well written and match the tone perfectly. I know it’s really easy for lead guitar players to over-do it on the solos or underdo it making solos boring, and Tyler hits a good balance.
A few of the standout tracks here are “ACID,” which was the band's first single. I really enjoy the rock heavy, guitar/bass riffs that propel the track forwards at a stumbling, zombie-like pace. I also really enjoy “Dozing off,” which has this buzzing effect over Danny’s vocals during portions of the song. It’s a nice little touch that adds quite a bit of personality to the song. The drum part in this track also stands out. Drummer Dusty adds lots of little flares that keep the drum parts from being considered basic, and the heavy use of cymbals during the more intense parts bring a lot of energy to the album. This can kind of be said for the majority of the album but is especially noticeable here. I also really like the closer "Fuck Mayor McCheese." It’s got the goofiest name, and slightly darker vibe with its minor arpeggio guitar line and the "lift off" voiceover is a great way to cap off the album.
Overall, the vibes here are superb. The production on this album is super dreamy, and the vocal stylings work in combination with the rhythm instruments to create an introspective and cathartic sound. The Band knocked it out of the park with this premier album, and I’m excited to see future entries. My one piece of advice is to try not to over rely on the longer strung-out vocal lines too much in the future. While it is a defining characteristic of the band, and honestly my favorite part of the band's sound, I can see it becoming a detriment if overused. Loads of bands fall into the trap of making the same album over and over again never really expanding on their signature sound, and it would be a shame to see this strong foundation not built upon.
Vibe out to It Could Be Worse at their bandcamp page: https://dullparty.bandcamp.com/album/it-could-be-worse
Artsy shots by me at a show I shot months ago.