Review : Dredg - The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion
AllmusicIn just four albums, California's Dredg have run the gamut from atonal, angular alternative metal outfit to epic, unpredictable progressive rockers with one foot in "loud/quiet/loud" world of emo and the other in genre-defying abyss of art rock. Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion represents the best of both worlds, employing top-notch musicianship, meticulous production, and memorable melodies atop an ambitious narrative culled from (in part) a Salman Rushdie essay called "Imagine There's No Heaven: A Letter to the 6 Billionth Citizen." While weeding through the wreckage of science, sociology, and religion for the quivering individual may seem like heavily guarded Radiohead territory, Dredg pulls it off with the human heart still intact. At 18 tracks, it can be a lot to swallow, but keep in mind that many of these are transitional pieces and rarely overstay their welcome. Obvious singles like "I Don't Know," "Saviour," and "Pariah" may be "modern rock" radio-ready, but they're "mathy" enough for the tech-loving music geeks, highbrow enough for the progressive rock elitists, and emotional enough for bike riding indie rockers....full text
SputnikmusicWhen Dredg released El Cielo in 2002, it wasn't met with much negative criticism. It was a breath a fresh air for those disenchanted with the places popular rock had been in the preceding years (remember nu-metal?) yet also satisfied most indie aficionados. It even invoked old-school psychedelia, satisfying all but those those who felt like music died with Syd Barrett. However, one negative perspective rings out in my mind. Ignoring the typical journalistic strutting of the writing, this review (http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/2450-el-cielo/) has keen insight into the true character of El Cielo; it is unabashedly an "art" album that seeks excellence through grandiosity and by expanding borders rather than by refining and revising ideas. This gravity is what made 2005's Catch Without Arms surprising. Dredg crafted a sensational album by carefully choosing elements from their more experimental and wandering early days and packaging them in concise alt-rock gems that blew the listener away with efficacy and meticulousness rather than their forays into the unknown. After proving they could compose both an art album and a pop album, Dredg had a blank canvas and a frighteningly hungry fan base. Throughout the writing and recording of The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion, this fan base devoured acoustic demos and live performances only to be disappointed. The punchy electronics of "Saviour" lacked elegance and the lyrics seemed to be crafted with an active disdain for being poetic. Regardless of this overt poppiness, "Saviour" was anything but, and felt like a failed attempt at experimenting with electronic production. Dredg, despite their clean sheet, had steadily built up negative hype around their release. Effectively, they unsold the vacuum cleaner they had spent the past eleven years selling.
Now that The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion is finally out, most fans, myself included, are a little ashamed we doubted these crunchy geniuses from Los Gatos, but are left feeling Dredg's balance of pop and art, something that for all of its variance had never before been in question, is now off its axis. The album is formatted like El Cielo with longer, traditionally structured tracks interspersed with flavorful, instrumental jams. However, when Dredg are banging out their longer songs, instead of the serene contemplative progressions of El Cielo, there are songs more akin to those on Catch Without Arms, for how they aim for more closed-sounding chord voicings, the regularized repetition of a verse-chorus-verse structure, and obvious melodic hooks and rhythmic build-ups. Previously where open major 9 chords floated over groovy basslines, there are now much more deterministic chords that always point back to their chorus melody. When "I Don't Know" breaks down into its bridge and subsequently builds itself back up cuing the re-entry of the chorus with the catchy "No, I don't know," the execution and flow is flawless and entertaining if also a retread. Pariah's tendency to fall back on familiar idioms in their fully-fledged songs also pollutes their shorter, instrumental tracks like "Drunk Slide" and "Long Days and Vague Cities." I mean this as counterintuitively as possible though; instead of jamming out on neat ideas and rendering these ideas with clarity of focus but a strong sense of experimentation, Dredg seem to be content to experiment for its own sake and let these songs become more rhythmically and texturally driven, which worked well with their slower El Cielo vibe but feels aggravated and out of place when sped up into barn burners. The only tracks that are fully exempt from repeating ideas on previous Dredg albums are the "Stamp of Origin" tracks, which are little narrative tracks that serve as beautiful vignettes that adjoin unusually paired songs like "Ireland" and "Lightswitch." After El Cielo, Dredg were no longer the same sagacious psychedelic band, but now that we're past Catch Without Arms, Dredg seem hung up on their capacity to be both poppy and experimental, which casts an identity crisis on the album that makes Pariah hard to swallow as an entire unit, whether a seamless epic experience or a collection of riveting songs....full text
Noripcord.In music, there's something to be said for ambitious concept albums, even if they don't turn out quite like their masterminds had hoped. The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion is one such example: much, much more than some experimental outing, Dredg's fourth full-length album is cut into varied pieces like some overwrought mosaic, at times both exultant and dragging. In short, it's a rather thick undertaking that could use a pruning or two, its triumphs constantly tampered by random flourishes seemingly added in for little else than their off-putting aura.
Luckily, Dredg is led nobly by the pure-voiced Gavin Hayes, whose strong vocals are always tinged with a longing melancholy. The California quartet's inherent catchiness and pseudo-philosophical lyricizing is no more special than, say, Minus the Bear's, but manages to exceed the sum of its parts thanks to Hayes' inherent strength as narrator, his voice an admirable boon to their every cause....full text
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