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Dot Dash (US): Searchlights *

Album Notes

After working with legendary producer Mitch Easter on their 2015 album, Earthquakes & Tidal Waves, and getting a layered, almost polished sound that pushed their punky pop sound far closer to the latter part of that equation, the lads of Dot Dash made a left turn on their next release. Arriving in 2016, Searchlights is produced by Missy Thangs, who also worked with Ex Hex, and together they went for a much rougher, more punishing sound. The guitars are cranked to ear-damaging levels, Terry Banks' pleading vocals are way out front, and the rhythm section drives it forward with serious intent, making it far more raw and action-packed, almost like a band running through its set at top volume in a dingy basement. The jangle is almost all gone, the sweetness has been replaced with something more jagged, and there's even a bit of heavy metal in the mix, mostly thanks to Steve Hansgen's brutal guitar work on tracks like "10,000 Days." The mix of poppy melodies and overdriven guitar histrionics is reminiscent of the Fastbacks, or for a more up-to-date reference, Tony Molina. Banks, too, sounds more intense this time out, pushing past the sweet croon of past records in the direction of something more insistent, even getting growly on some of the punkier tunes. It's an interesting change of direction for Dot Dash that works thanks to the passion and excitement they give to each song. Instead of their usual well-groomed and almost pristine sound, this feels like the work of a band with something to prove and some stuff to work out. They may lose a few fans who really connected with their previous sound, but the songwriting is still there, as is their knack for simple hooks that stick like glue. Those two factors go a long way in making Dot Dash's transition to this new sound a smooth one and Searchlights a worthy addition to their résumé. ~ Tim Sendra



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