It’s difficult to call Dumb veterans, but in the high turnover Vancouver indie scene, any band nearing a decade of consistent music-making surely deserves some respect. The punk outfit’s latest album, last year’s Pray 4 Tomorrow, proves that their well has certainly not run dry, and may have been hiding gold all along.
While 2018’s Club Nites was a cut above the average Bandcamp rock release, its in-your-face stylings wore slightly thin as the band settled into a comfortable sonic palate. In comparison, P4T’s first track, “Foot Control,” with its earworm bass line and angular guitar interplay, shows just how much the band has grown in the intervening four years. “Pull Me Up” might be Dumb’s first radio-ready hit— its effortless slacker riff hiding a bevy of hooks which make it a perfect fit for parties, car rides and summer playlists. “Strange is the Morning” finds the band flirting unabashedly with indie pop, allowing a break from their trademark deadpan vocals in favour of a sweeter, more wistful delivery. Changes of pace like this pop up just often enough that, when the band decides to lean on their punk fundamentals, they hit with newfound force.
“Watch This Drive” boasts a pounding hardcore rhythm and gnarly guitar solo which lasts just long enough to prove the band can still bust out a barnburner when the time is right. “Civic Duty” is another immediate smash, with a humbucking guitar lick that evokes Trompe Le Monde-era Pixies, seasoned with typically Vancouver musings on tourists, posers, and punk-scene headasses. “These boys from out of town / Keep listing all the best things ‘bout this place” complains vocalist Franco Rossino — with just enough whine to charm his audience. The band seem content as they settle into their veteran status, only too happy to complain about kids these days. Rossino admits on another loud cut, “Out of Touch,” “I enjoy losing my patience / I like telling people off.”
It seems that their comfortable position has empowered Dumb to explore some less obvious sonic directions. Unexpected highlight “Sleep Like a Baby’’ finds the band embracing Specials-influenced ska and pulling off the stunt without a hitch. All in all, the album’s 40-minute runtime goes by in half as long. Final track “The Entertainer” sends things off with a feedback-laced guitar solo that proves the band hasn’t nearly exhausted themselves. I’m certainly praying for more.