Reviews Grabass Charlestons Dale & the Careeners

Grabass Charlestons

Dale & the Careeners

Is this the same band that released Ask Mark Twain? Well, kind of. Dale & the Careeners is the first Grabass Charlestons full-length since 2005, and their first with singer Will Thomas wielding the axe instead of the kit. Really, after giving this record several listens it seems that talking about the band’s earlier releases will mostly put people on the wrong track. Dale & the Careeners is a record that shows a lot of change and a lot of growth, primarily in the layering of different influences. It reminds me of American Steel’s Jagged Thoughts—not so much in sound, rather in the fact that, on first listen, it seems to be an entirely different band.

Grabass Charlestons started out as a gruff’n’tumble punk band in the vein of Dillinger Four. Now, however, the songs are pulling from a much wider range and the overall sound is as much straight-up “rock” as it is “punk,” whatever those words mean. It’s pretty clear from the opener “Stormy Weather,” which along with “Addicted Together” and “Apocalypse Whenever,” has something of an Arrivals feel to it. And that’s the closest contemporary comparison I can name throughout the whole record. The melodies are strong, with an undertone of classic rock and a bit of punk rock grittiness. The difference between Grabass and the Arrivals, however, is that Grabass have a far stronger influence coming from Southern and classic rock. “Quiet Life” is a straight Friday night rocker, sort of in tune with Gainesville native Tom Petty and “”If Dale Were You” even has some boogie-woogie flair.

There is a lot of bigger, winding guitar on the record that, especially when combined with Thomas’ drawl, gives a real Southern feel. And, to compound the rocker references even more, “Fall Guy” steals its melody outright from Guns N’ Roses’ classic “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” It’s a curious song in its obvious source, yet it stands on its own as a piece of the overall theme that runs throughout Dale & the Careeners. “Existential Dale,” while musically-speaking, is among the least interesting songs on the record, tells the story of Dale at his job at the Flying J—it’s perfectly in tune with the theme, and the details and story of the lyricism overrides the song’s duller moments. It’s still a good representative for the record’s feel, given the lyrical description and characterization involved in the outtake “Red Bull breath/ crystal meth/ tastes kind of salty…” To drop another name, the album shares a songwriting style with The Hold Steady, exploring different characters, but doing so with sympathy and a real human element instead of as caricatures.

Repeated plays of the record surface a complicated structure and layered songs that, on first listen, may not captivate or pound with the intensity the band’s earlier releases did. However, the nuance that interplays and the depth of the songwriting is a serious accomplishment and my appreciation grows with each listen. It’s not an easy record to grasp, and if I had to pick a definitive song to woo fans, it wouldn’t work that way as the LP is devoid of obvious singles. What it is, is something that should be picked up, put on the player, and just let it spin a few times as you absorb. Slowly but surely, it will pull you in to Dale’s complicated world.

8.3 / 10Loren
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8.3 / 10

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