Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hey Brother...Can You Spare A Dime?

The Dimes
The Silent Generation


OMG!! From the land of Zilla!!!

Biography by William Ruhlmann
Indie pop quartet the Dimes was formed in Portland, OR, after singer/songwriter/guitarist Johnny Clay met the other members, guitarist Pierre Kaiser, bassist Ryan Johnston, and drummer Jake Rahner, in 2002. While performing extensively in their local area, the Dimes self-released a six-song self-titled debut EP in 2003, followed by another, Atlanta, in 2005. They next released four-song EP The Long Arm Came Down on January 15, 2007. Their first full-length CD, The Silent Generation, had songs based on newspaper articles from the Depression era found by Kaiser under the floors of his 1908 home while he was renovating it. The Dimes began selling the album at shows on August 25, 2007. Local label Pet Marmoset Records picked it up for national retail release starting on December 11, 2007.
Review by j. poet
The Dimes started a buzz with a bright, poppy 2006 EP that featured a "hit" single, "Catch Me Jumping," the story of a friend who enlisted in the navy, went a bit crazy, and jumped off of his ship in the Persian Gulf. The tune has a bright, bouncy beat, driving acoustic/electric guitars, a slightly surrealistic lyric, and the bright, breezy vocals of guitarist, songwriter, and bandleader Johnny Clay. The band's restrained performance puts the band's sound halfway between folk-rock and pure pop, while Clay's vocals are simply stunning. Just before they started recording their debut, second guitarist Pierre Johnson discovered a stash of Depression era newspapers hidden beneath the floorboards of his Portland, OR house. Clay began reading the old papers, then writing songs about the colorful stories he discovered. The songs he produced maintain the band's folk/pop feel. Even when the subject matter is grim -- the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the hard times families faced in the Great Depression -- Clay brings a ray of sunshine to the tale with his upbeat melodies and optimistic singing. "The Jersey Kid" gives us the brief outline of a murder trial that ends with a death sentence. Crisp acoustic guitars, a bright wordless chorus, and the playful rhythm of flamenco handclaps give the tune an upifting feel, despite the grim subject matter. "New York, 1930" tells the story of a pro-Sacco-Vanzetti demonstration that became a vicious riot. Clay sings "The Reds are rioting in Times Square..," to the strum of an acoustic guitar, a chorus of angelic overdubbed harmonies, and what sounds like a Baroque recorder tooting in the background. It's another beautiful, surrealistic moment. "Letters in the Sea" is a song about a box of 300 letters that washed up on the Jersey shore. Clay wonders about the effect the undelivered letters had upon those who never got them. His poignant vocal and the band's quiet modern rock arrangement -- think of a brighter, lighter New Order -- give the song an aura of ambiguous mystery. While the songs provide snapshots of a bygone America -- an obituary of Emmy Destinn, the top opera star of her day; the tale of a man who survives a bullet to the head only to find that he can't sleep, and stays awake for the rest of his life -- the Dimes' soft rock delivery is completely modern, investing the tales with the humanitarian romance of a Frank Capra movie. The Dimes have done what most bands dream of, creating an alternate universe of warm pop music with a sunny vibe that'll keep toes tapping and plaster a sunny smile on every listener's face.

1 Jersey Kid
2 Paul Kern Can't Sleep
3 New York 1930
4 Catch Me Jumping
5 Battle of San Jacinto
6 Chicago 1929
7 Letters in the Sea
8 Stacked Brown Boxes
9 This Time
10 Salt and Foam
11 Emmy Divine
12 Up for Air
13 The Silent Generation
******Sneak Peek ******
The group is releasing a new EP on May 19th entitled New England and we have a taste just for you.
While the band is currently working on their sophomore full-length, which should be out by September 2009, they've released this gem of a little EP to get the buzz machine rolling. I think they sound like Iron and Wine meet Death Cab for Cutie, with distinct influences from The Beatles and their fellow Portlanders, The Decemberists.
Get these two tracks Right Here & Now!
All feedback is appreciated.


zillagord said...

From the review: "halfway between folk-rock and pure pop"

Thst aptly sums up a lot of Portland bands. Smart indie-pop, kinda fey and sensitive. Think The Shins, Decemberists, Modest Mouse.

Portland has a helluva scene if you like this stuff, and actually has a great music scene overall considering the size of the city. I guess it's the rain, bands actually stay home and practice instead of going out and partying.

I have actually never seen these guys, and I am sure they have played right down the street many times. Maybe this is a hint...

Thanks TS!

Trustar said...

I knew this would catch "someone's" eyes and ears.

Thanks for an Oregon-eers take on this group Z.