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Dick Diver: Melbourne, Florida


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Much of the Australian music to have attracted foreign attention in recent years has sounded urgent and a little warped, either by too much time in the sun (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, UV Race, Blank Realm) or too many psychedelics (Tame Impala, Pond), but lately the focus has shifted towards a number of bands like Twerps and The Stevens who exude a more relaxed vibe, a movement the press have assigned the unfortunate genre tag “dolewave”. Standing at the forefront of this sub-scene, much to their chagrin, are Melbourne’s Dick Diver, and whilst their name – which sounds to the uneducated (i.e. me) like the assumed alias of some sleazy, tattooed porn star – might suggest a proclivity towards the kind of sloppy, lo-fi garage punk favoured by many of their peers, the charmingly bookish pop songs on their third album Melbourne, Florida actually roll out at a decidedly unhurried pace and proceed to bask and bloom in their own golden glow.
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The fact that the name really comes from a character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night certainly makes sense. Dick Diver are everymen, but they’re also deep thinkers; their songs may reference telephones and televisions, names appearing in car number plates and dreams of disgraced ex-figure skaters, but they often feel like the musings of someone who has spent the morning reading the broadsheets and the afternoon staring out of their window in solemn, serene contemplation. Lyrics largely comprise apparently random brain-farts and observations (“Hot lips, she’s a dreamy type/ Talk to a counsellor“; “Being miserable only keeps you a certain kind of sharp“) that slot together like images from a mildly feverish daydream and somehow coalesce into the loveliest poetry you’ll hear all year: “Nine to five, look in the mirror/ I can see China from here” yelps Alistair McKay on “Waste The Alphabet” for example, tossing the line out casually as if it won’t instantly get stuck in your head and lead to countless lost hours pondering the possibilities.
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Having all four members – McKay and fellow guitarist Rupert Edwards, bassist Al Montfort and drummer Steph Hughes – share songwriting and vocal duties keeps things interesting, partly because each has their own subtly different character (Edwards’ voice tends to be slightly melancholy, Hughes’ a little wide-eyed, whilst Montfort – who plays in half a dozen other bands including Lower Plenty and Total Control – errs on the side of rough-edged quirkiness on his “Beat Me Up”) but also because they make it impossible to predict what the following track will sound like – jangly new wave (“Tearing The Posters Down“) or slow-burning epic (“Percentage Points”)? Brass-bolstered balladry (“Leftovers”) or synth-centric drone-rock (“Competition”)? – or even what’s coming in the next verse, or bridge, or chorus: will it be a male voice or a female one? Will the next solo come from a guitar, or a piano, or even a saxophone? Will we be left heavy-hearted or will there be a happy ending?
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Sometimes there isn’t really an ending at all; indeed, the album finishes on a cliffhanger of sorts, with the plaintive “View From A Shakey Ladder”, which comes to an abrupt halt with Hughes, having just watched “the bullseye” of a leaving lover’s brake lights disappear into the night, chirping “I’d still say you’re coming back/ If I didn’t know any better.” It’s a closer befitting a near flawless record, the kind that makes you want to cycle right back to the beginning to examine the whole thing in greater detail, to try and find clues, to attempt to piece together the lyrical jigsaw pieces. These songs are in no rush to reveal themselves, or to get to any kind of point, but I can’t think of too many other recent albums that I’d rather spend a lazy afternoon getting to know.
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Melbourne, Florida is out now via Chapter Music (Australia) and Trouble In Mind (U.S.); listen to “Waste The Alphabet” below.
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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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