July 13, 2010
Dear Comrade | Self-Titled EP
Dear Comrade EP
2010 | Unsigned
I wanted deeply, in my heart of hearts, to not compare Dear Comrade to stellastarr*. But I truly think, even had I not known that Dear Comrade is the work of stellastarr* drummer/keyboardist Arthur Kremer (with the help of Emmett Aiello on lead guitar, bass by Dan Freeman, and backing and occasional lead vocals by Stefani Pekin – who also goes by Dex, and Dr. Dex, though I doubt she’s board certified), my mind would have immediately leapt to that conclusion.
Moody instrumentals, soaring female backing vocals behind almost-speaking-rather-than-singing post-punk male vocals (think almost Interpol), yeah, I could be describing either band. But while stellastarr* began reaching out toward what I would argue is a more gothic sound (in the literary sense of the word) with Harmonies for the Haunted, Dear Comrade is a little less flashy, more stripped down, and attempts to show a broader mix of influences.
“Badlands” opens the album, a semi-political track mostly about apathy. “Conflict of interests, clashing of faith / What would John Lennon fight for today? / Where’s the amber, where’s the glow / Where’s Black Panther, I just don’t know.” While I assume Kremer is referencing the 1960′s radical party, he could just as easily be asking for the Marvel Comics superhero. Oh, the joys of interpretation. The track itself is certainly enjoyable, but I think it lacks a certain spark, especially when compared to later tracks on the album.
“The End” is next, a duet between Kremer and Pekin. A gritty exchange of pain with emotionally charged gusts of chorus, it unfortunately lacks suspense. However, “In It Again,” the third and middle track of the EP, is where I feel like things really open up. This is a song that is sung mainly by Pekin, and she lets the listener feel her vocal prowess. Easily the catchiest tune, it has “single” written all over it. Kremer’s drums provide a heartbeat that propels the music, and while certainly worth noticing, they are not overwhelming, and that can often be a fine line. The very end of the song, which features a few seconds of only Pekin and the drums, unlocks an interesting potential which I think could be explored more, perhaps on a later album. What I would have given for a drum-and-vocal hidden track. Next time, guys?
“My Love a Heart Attack,” which follows, features a pleasing Spoon-like chorus, but the unnecessarily reverbed, almost dance-track intro confused me. The back-and-forth between Kremer and Pekin hits a peak, with Kremer keeping the bassline and letting Pekin do her thing.
The EP closes with ”Oceans”, which is the most stellastarr*-esque track on the EP. I have no problem with this, as I’m sure being in stellastarr* has taught Kremer a ton, and to show off what he’s known for is only fair. The track reaches almost Meatloaf-level operatics, with ringing bells and echoes. It’s very pleasing in a “put this on and strike dramatic poses alone in the apartment” sort of way. I can’t be the only person who does that.
Ending with a steady drum pound, the less-than-15-minute-long EP begs to be played again. So do it. Let me know what I missed.
by allison levin
photo credit: Carly Sioux (www.paparazza.net)