Ringing guitars, a steady beat and echoes of long ago: That, in a nutshell, sums up the latest release from veteran D.C.-based post-punk band Dot Dash. Hooks a-plenty course through their compact tunes and snappy arrangements, which sport obvious nods to the Jam and half the new wave/power pop bands of the late ‘70s and ‘80s; to borrow a line from their “Space Junk, Satellites,” “It’s no different but it’s not the same.” Pretty much all the songs, musically speaking at least, would’ve been at home on the Valley Girl soundtrack.
The songs include shout-outs to the Cars, Knack, Everything but the Girl, and Jesus & Mary Chain, among others, while musing about the things middle-age and older folks often muse about: “You can’t go on, you can’t go back/You gotta have a heart to have a heart attack.” It’s present-tense life at a past-tense age, in other words: “I’m not afraid of dying/But I’m afraid of being dead.” And, just as in the days of yore, songs fly by fast, with a few lingering around the two-minute mark and most not much longer than that.
The band consists of guitarist/singer Terry Banks, whose CV includes a stint with St. Christopher and Tree Fort Angst, along with bassist Hunter Bennett, who penned The Prodigal Rogerson about Circle Jerks bassist Roger Rogerson (1955-1996), and drummer Danny Ingram, while producer Geoff Sanoff plays the keyboards on a few. The songs are polished but not overly so, with a few reminding me not just of ‘80s “college rock” but also of the garage-rock glories found on the original Nuggets 2-LP set of overlooked wonders from the ‘60s. (To borrow from Battlestar Galactica’s appropriation of Ecclesiastes 1:9, “All of this has happened before and will happen again.” That includes jingle-jangle rock ’n’ roll.)
Fans of Artsick, Big Nothing, Boon, Pip Blom, Laura Lee & the Jettes and similar newer groups are sure to enjoy this album, as those bands built their sound from the same stylistic blueprint. But while I find it easy to lose myself in the songs and albums of the modern world (I’m—cliche alert!—young at heart), I sometimes yearn to hear adults singing about the things that keep me up at night. In that sense, Madman in the Rain reminds me of Richard Haswell’s stellar With the Changing Light and even Dream Syndicate’s Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions in that its songs delve into life challenges similar to those faced by me and mine. If you’re of a certain vintage—or just a fan of the bands I mentioned above—it’s well worth checking out. Give it a go.