I first saw DMA’S when they hit our shores back in 2017 at The Tuning Fork in Auckland, NZ. You know, the days when you could go out and see live bands from other countries and the only thing you thought you might catch was a cold. I hadn’t heard of them before but was told by a very good friend of mine, Pete down in Wellington, they were a must-see. He was right and I wrote a review saying as much when I got home from the gig that night.
Skip forward to July 2020 and how things have changed, both environmentally and for the DMA’S: their sound has matured and they’re not afraid to break new ground. THE GLOW is their coming of age album (yes I know it sounds corny but that is what it feels like). It is a proper old school album, with thoughtful consideration given to the order of songs, the range of tempos and recording styles, wrapped nicely by a familiar vibe and lush textures.
Johnny Took, Tommy Odel and Matt Mason have done the hard yards, touring and recording since their breakthrough self-titled EP that came out in 2014 with the hit single Delete. THE GLOW captures the present as a perfect time capsule for the future but also gives a nod to their past in a way that will continue to intrigue the listener the more the album is played.
The recording sessions took place in the summer of 2019 with the majority of the tracks produced by the legendary Stuart Price (Madonna, Killers, New Order, Pet Shop Boys). Having Price at the helm allowed the band to head into greener fields, introducing beats and synthesizers for the first time, somewhat breaking the formula of their past success while keeping their influences closer to them than ever before.
The opening track Never Before is aptly named. Kicking off with a series of beats that groove into a steady pulse which gets nicely under the skin, before the vocal layers of Tommy’s angelic voice settle nicely over the top of the track. Like a well-worn highway that stretches out into the horizon, Never Before slips you into drive and takes you for a ride that is effortless, and chilled and would make the most ardent fan of Primal Scream give a nod of approval.
The title track The Glow follows, speeding the tempo up while fitting the traditional songwriting formula, and beefing it up with synthesizers and beats. I interviewed Johnny before the release of the album and he talked about their songwriting approach called ‘Frankensteinng it’. “Essentially it’s a verse, a pre-chorus, chorus, a rift, a middle eight and an outro. It is going through our songs, all our melodies, on our phones and finding an appropriate sound and putting them into the same key. We are basically building a monster.”
Things slow down with Silver, one of the many highlights on the album and my favourite at the time of writing. An acoustic start moves into a Phil Spector glorious wall of sound and melody. Pretty much everything but the kitchen sink is thrown into the track and it doesn’t let you go till the very last note.
Any thought of catching your breath is short-lived with Life is a Game of Changing, which drags you up on the dance floor without a consideration of whether it’s a good idea or not. The beats are aplenty here and you get a sense of the true influences of the album: from the Peter Hook bass licks to the shadows of New Order and Killers, mixed into a cocktail only the DMA’S could serve.
And so the recipe continues throughout the whole album. There are still shots of Oasis in tracks like Learning Alive and Hello Girlfriend, but this is where DMA’S take that sound and make it their own. Appointment is just beautiful and lush without the electronic wizardry, yet fits perfectly in the order of songs to really make this album a journey of aural beauty.
The closing track Cobracaine was written by Mason at the same time as Delete some 10 years ago but only now finds it's place on an album. Its increase in tempo and electronic overlays talks about dark events but truly is a melting pot of the DNA of the DMA’S and an appropriate bookend to the album.
The Glow truly shines and I am going to stop talking about it and suggest that you just get it. It is an album that is attractive from the first listen, but, with more plays, you will start to see the beauty unfold and become one of those albums that you won’t need to dust off over the years that follow.
It’s been given the royal treatment it deserves too, with the release getting the full range of different formats, including a multi-coloured album on heavyweight vinyl with all the trimmings.
You get the feeling this album is going to take them to the next stage and I cannot wait to see them on it.
Click here to stream or buy
Released: 10 Jul 2020