DMA’s ‘Hills End’ – Review

15 Mar

You get the sense that record label execs, the kind who claw desperately at the past, are longing for a Britpop revival. The mid 90s must seem like halcyon days where it was relatively easy to predict trends, find clear cut demographics, sell a ton of records and make real money. Britpop was the last Youth movement that both changed culture and made record companies stinking rich. How desirable it would be to find a new band with the earning potential of Oasis, Blur, The Verve – even James or Shed 7!

Every few years these execs test the water by signing a bunch of young, equally nostalgic bands, but if the Britpop revival wasn’t happening for Brother and their laughable ‘gritpop’ efforts, at a moment when guitar music was in vogue, then it certainly isn’t happening In 2016, when it certainly isn’t. Pretty Vicious, The Sherlocks and Blossoms are some of the new bands having their hats thrown in the ring by moderately enthusiastic PR men and none of them are particularly standing out, it has to be said. Far removed geographically from that bland bunch are DMAS who picked up transmissions of Mancunian swagger all the way from Austrailia. Of all the bands staking a claim, DMA’s make the best case.

On the face of it they appear to have been transported here from 1997, that year when baggy got too baggy and sportswear truly infiltrated the Britpop look. Bucket hats, cargo pants and puma trainers are the order of the day once again. Musically they tick a lot of the boxes as well. Vocalist Tommy O’dell has a sweet voice that is best suited to the mid paced semi-ballads that fill the second half of the album. The arrangements are simple and unambitious with predictable chords played in a predictable order on predictable instruments. Lyrics are ‘moon/June’ obvious and very little will strike you as being inventive or unexpected. Can you roll with it?

That said, there is something undeniably moving about the sweet sentiments behind ‘Delete’ and ‘So You Know’. They deliver an emotional blow that isn’t easy to pull off – if it was I have no doubt that far bigger bands like Kasabian and Catfish and the Bottlemen would at least give it a go. Ironically, It takes confidence to be this vulnerable; DMAs lay their hearts on the line using the most rudimentary language and the results are often rather lovely. ‘Step up the Morphine’ and ‘Straight Dimensions’ even add some jangly rickenbackers, which we all know sound glorious when offset by a nice acoustic guitar. All this leads me to the conclusion that DMA’s are a bunch of romantics at heart. This whole Manncunian act ain’t washing.

Which is kind of a problem. At least a third of ‘Hills End’ is made up of heavy, mid paced rockers; the kind which need to be pulled off with swagger and attitude. DMAS don’t have much of either. ‘Timeless’, ‘Too Soon’ and ‘Lay Down’ are melodically sound and make all the right gestures but they’re soppy, apolitical and lack bite. Despite appearances, there is nothing here to inspire a movement, or even get kids to look up from their iPhones. DMAs may have watched the music videos but they never read the ‘Definitely Maybe’ lyric sheet. Which wouldn’t be an issue if they didn’t go out of their way to convince us they belong in that lineage. They have the songwriting chops and the heart, they just don’t have the teeth. But then that lack of bravado, cockiness and bluster is also a bit appealing; do we actually want a new Liam Gallagher? DMAs genuinely seem like a modest bunch and they know how to write catchy, moving ballads. So ‘Hills End’ is no ‘Definatley Maybe’ and DMA’s are no Oasis – but they’re no Menswear either.

7/10

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