Some albums just hit you right away. I was vaguely aware of Black Dots – some friends saw them at The Fest last year and said nice things, so I figured I should check it out myself when a lovely one-sided 12” showed up at my door.
Everything Has Gotta Change hits immediately. Opener “I’m Already Gone” lays the framework: introducing each of the vocalists plus the band’s unique spin on heartfelt, urgent punk with a pop bent. I struggle for reference points with Black Dots because it’s instantly familiar, yet each singer has their own style that takes over the song. It’s accessible punk, yet DIY and a bit quirky and outside the genre box. Worriers comes to mind in that sense, though individual songs also spark other comparisons. Then, of course, there’s the band’s background: members have played in Vena Cava and The Achievement. There are two main singers and three different songwriters. It’s a diverse sound that’s unified; each song is a changeup, not a new pitcher.
In fact, the record is so consistently good from start to finish that I’ve struggled with finding a place to start this review for quite some time. The party starts with “I’m Already Gone,” a three-singer vocal tradeoff that features the lyrical snippet featured in the album title. But when I say “party,” I don’t mean this is a rager or fun, per se. The lyrics are pained and desperate and the delivery draws a balance between relaying that frustration and finding solace by using soothing harmonies to compensate for the struggle within. Then “Like Oceans” picks up with a rolling guitar hook that’s probably where I drew my Worriers comparison earlier. Two of the singers have smooth, melodic deliveries that really convey a personal tone while allowing drums and well-placed hooks to move the songs forward. A third singer often jumps in as well, with a gruff style that reminds me of the song’s where Pretty Boy Thorson’s bassist took over the microphone. It’s equally emotional, but it’s raspy and reflective of the hardship behind the songs’ meanings. I hear subtle similarities with Dan Padilla and The Tim Version through the record as well.
While this sounds (thematically) bleak, it’s really not. “I Knew It, I’m Surrounded by Assholes” namedrops Spaceballs right in its title. Beyond that wink though, it also seamlessly mixes an opening beer can effect into the guitar lead before the opening lyrics of “I always try to be the better person.” The songwriting may follow a traditional pop structure but they aren’t simple. Life is complex and so are the emotions conveyed within Everything Has Gotta Change. Like the title, it’s cynical and somewhat depressing. But it’s simultaneously uplifting and unifying – with the vocal tradeoffs and penchant for harmonies highlighting that metaphor. It’s not about the struggle; it’s about getting through the struggle.
9.0 / 10
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