Consisting of little more than drums guitar and vocals Visiter the 2008 sophomore release from Dodos packed an awfully strong punch from seemingly scrawny pasty-white arms. Its wandering song lengths percussive freak-outs sing-song melodies and naked catharsis might have been too unkempt and unwashed for some but the album made a statement that the then-duo of vocalist-guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber was a force to be reckoned with in the world of left-field indie rock.
On the band’s latest album Time to Die Dodos sound neither like a force nor particularly left of centre. Instead the album feels muted the idiosyncrasies filed down to dull edges the spasms calculated and tacked on the freak flag waving limply at half mast. Long’s guitar is still loose and frantic Kroeber is still a demon behind his kit unleashing a frenzy of unconventional heavy toms and stick clacks and new member Keaton Snyder’s vibraphone adds a nice extra texture to the sound but Time to Die doesn’t congeal.
A lot of the blame lies on the shoulders of noted indie rock producer Phil Ek. Faced with the twin-headed monster of Long and Kroeber’s virtuosic abilities Ek chooses to mush everything together with only Long’s boyish vocals separating themselves from the clatter effectively ruining the interplay that was at the heart of Visiter . It’s not all Ek though. For its part Dodos has excised most of its quieter moments as well as its most manic indulgences leaving the album’s nine songs to fall into a too-similar middle ground.
“The Strums” “Trollnacht” and the title track are all memorable despite their mediocre surroundings but even they fail to reach the heights Dodos climbed on Visiter. Time to Die isn’t a terrible album but it is a forgettable one — something that didn’t seem possible only a year ago.