Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dennis Diken and Bell Sound: Pure Pop for Now People

I love the irony in the title of Dennis Diken with Bell Sound’s new album, Late Music. I’m assuming it’s twofold. There are songs that should be listened to at night, such as the lounge-like “Lost Bird”. On the flip side, this album has been nearing perfection for over 10 years. Dennis gave me a cassette (remember those?) that contained a few songs, which have made their way on to this album. A few years later another configuration made it into my hands, this time on CD. The project was called Sleeping Giant. I got chills the first time I heard “Standing In That Line” and I relived that same feeling listening to the final version of this great collection of songs.

Dennis, best known as the drummer for the Smithereens is a great historian of rock/pop music so it will surprise no one that musical references are worn on the sleeve. Listening to this album brought me back to songs that I hadn’t heard in awhile, which is the beauty of Late Music. They’re not reinventing the wheel, just rearranging the spokes and taking it for a ride. Put the top down and turn it up.

There are numerous reasons why “Standing In That Line” is a perfect pop song. It brings to mind the “lost” Beach Boys hit “The Little Girl I Once Knew”. Forgotten by most, maybe because of the simple lyrics, but it was a preview of where Brian Wilson was headed as a musician and producer. His next project was Pet Sounds. What makes “Little Girl” such an achievement are the expanding layers of vocals, breaks of silence, hooky chorus and interesting timings. There is a lot going on and it’s orchestrated so beautifully. The line ‘”She’s Not The Little Girl I Once Knew” is the red flag that things are changing for Brian and look out here comes the confessional Pet Sounds. Early on “Standing In That Line” proclaims, “I was found, but now I’m lost”. Sound familiar? Sound like a mantra for today? “Standing” comes out of the gate and grabs your attention with the opening guitar, which quickly leads into a swell of instruments carried by the pounding of drums. Dennis explained that this full blown-production was actually “cut on a four-track cassette.” In come the vocals (lead vocal Pete DiBella), which echo the power of Carl Wilson and the innocence of Brian Wilson. There are bridges and breaks and a short, but soaring guitar solo. This song is a gem.

“Long Lonely Ride” gives a sly nod to the other drumming Dennis (Wilson) by mentioning a Two-Lane Black Top (Wilson starred in a 1971 movie by that name with James Taylor). Noted lyrics: Eat My Dust, Chew My Leather. In the obscure reference department: There’s a musical piece in the song that immediately brought me back to the Boyce-Hart song “Where Angels Go Trouble Follows”. In the movie of the same name, there is a dance scene in the gym. The band is playing the song and when they get to the above referenced part of the song, the scoreboard flashes numbers showing the girls beating the boys.I warned you it was obscure. “Fall Into Your Arms” could have been a track on Dennis Wilson’s solo album, the recently reissued Pacific Ocean Blue. It has the same beautiful vulnerability.

Take the best of The Beau Brummels, The Standells, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the soundtrack to To Sir With Love (note the Mindbenders "Off and Running"), Peter and Gordon and you’ve got “I’ve Been Away”, “The Sun’s Gonna Shine In The Morning” and “Let Your Loved One Sleep”. All modern day classics. The album closes with the “Ain’t That Peculiar”-feeling, “Tell All The Fools”. Background vocal courtesy of The Honeys (Brian Wilson’s ex-wife and mother of 2/3 of Wilson Phillips, Marilyn Wilson_Rutherford, Marilyn’s sister Diane Rovell and Ginger Blake).

Late Music glows. Turn it up. Take it in. Enjoy the ride.

Dennis collaborated with Pete DiBella. and producer Dave Amels. Special guests include Andy Paley, The Honeys, Jason Falkner, and members of The Wondermints.

Dennis Diken with Bell Sound’s Late Music is available September 29th on Cryptovision Records.

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