Dads – “I’ll Be the Tornado”

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Grand Edge, MI” “Sold Year/Transitions”

Gone are the days of “Groin Twerk” and albums with ‘Radass’ in the title. Dads’ perpetual lyrical theme of growing up and drifting away comes stronger, as the Jersey duo mature in leaps and bounds over their last record. We saw this transition coming, on the decidedly not-so-emo “Pretty Good,” an EP that never really found it’s place. “I’ll Be the Tornado,” an LP, completes the transition into a serious, adult band. Except, they’re still punk.

Much like last year’s “Pretty Good,” the guys bounce around in a few different influences. This album has much more flow than “Pretty Good,” not trying to make any statements about the music, instead letting the audience accept it as it comes. The album’s acoustic opening isn’t a copout, it’s part of a build-up, and it’s unexpected. (And it’s reminiscent of this year’s largely acoustic Cardinal Cardinal EP, the side project of John Bradley). We’re still kind of expecting disassembled, roaring songs like “Get to the Beach!” but they’re not present. Instead, we get a number of flowing rock tracks, with occasional punk jams (“You Hold Back”), emo ballads (“But”) and some slight, leftover twee rhythms (“Chewing Ghosts”). “I’ll Be the Tornado” is more straightforward and accessible, if not still tough around the edges. Two part track “Sold Year/Transitions” has a rough and straining transition in the middle that’s fresher than most of the album’s other music. Dads feel comfortable falling into more traditional rock, but they can still pull it all off.

And they can pull it off because John Bradley’s lyrics, vocals and drums haven’t changed a note. “I’ll Be the Tornado” is a drum-heavy work, logical when you’re a duo with a drummer who sings lead. And Bradley’s lyrics are as ‘fresh’ as they’ve ever been. They have a certain ‘creative writing 101 course’ feel to them – poetic only in their specificity, direct, regretful and reminiscent. His lyrics are always unique, opting for straight punches rather than anything subversive. “I want to be happy,” Bradley starkly admits on “You Hold Back,” which seems a contrast to everything before and after it on the album. Bradley, and Scott Sharinger, explore feelings of unease and uncomfortable maturity, not knowing what to want or expect out of life. As with previous albums, many of their lyrics are based around falling back on memories because you can’t make anything of the future. “I need something new to obsess over,” says second track “Chewing Ghosts.” And reflections on others are present, as always. “You wanna hang Christmas lights in the summer/An excuse to spend time with each other” Bradley sings on “Sold Year/Transitions.” And Bradley also sings about his own dad’s health struggles, with references peppering the album throughout. The album is honest, even for Dads, with frank poetry and gut-hitting remembrances.

The only real fault of the album is that in its embrace of more traditional rock music, it sputters out towards the end. The album ends with “Take Back Today” and the 7+ minute “Only You,” both of which are musically pleasing songs, but aren’t the big finish the album needs. They’re both kind of ho-hum songs, not hitting the same level that the rest of the album does. So it dampers the album a bit, but not enough to discredit the eight songs before it. “I’ll Be the Tornado” is still a wildly and unexpectedly progressive album for the band, one that’s also regressive in many ways. It’s definiably Dads, but it’s more open, grittier, slower, clearer, and even more honest. Gone are the punk blasts, and they’re missed, but the replacements are more than welcomed.

If you like this, try: Prawn’s recent album, “Kingfisher,” another more mature sounding emo album, albeit one that takes an entirely different lyrical approach.

Dads – “Pretty Good”

(Photo Credit: best-vinyl.blogspot.com)

Grade: B

Dads, a wonderfully fast and gleefully sad duo from New Jersey, have been looking to shed their emo background. In March they were crowned the best emo band ever in Property of Zack’s March Sadness competition (probably in part to being the only band interested in the competition and encouraging their fanbase to vote). But the emo branding bears some weights, as the word ’emo’ brings more bad bands to mind than good ones. So the duo hopes to change that on their new four track EP, “Pretty Good.” It yearns for their emo-leaning work, but for a band attempting outreaches, it succeeds.

The opening track, “My Crass Patch,” is easily the EP’s best. The song is vocally similar to their previous works, but feels heavier and angrier. It sets the transition off on the right foot, sending a different message than the carefree-yet-miserable feel of their 2012 album, “American Radass (This Is Important).” The second track, “Can I Be Yr Deadbeat Boyfriend?” continues with the heavy feel, and adds a little punk inspiration throughout it’s very short run. It is the most reminiscent of their older music, sounding similar to the heavily-intro blasts like “Groin Twerk” and “Grunt Work,” while still sounding more purposeful.

The third song, “Boat Rich,” sounds terrible out of context of the album. Taken for what it is, the song sounds like a cornier (dare I say, more ‘radio-friendly’) version of “Let’s Go to the Beach!” from ‘Radass.’ But on the album, its lighter tone makes for a break from the heavy nature of the first two tracks. It also allows for the band to show that their branching out leads in both directions. This is further emphasized on the final track, “No We’re Not Actually,” a five minute slow burner.

“Pretty Good” lives up to it’s title. For a transition work, it is successful. But Dads only have two albums under their belt – their decent “Brush Your Teeth Again ;)” and the utterly perfect ‘Radass,’ and it is kind of a shame to see them leaving the genre so soon. I was hoping for one or two more of their lo-fi, emo pleasures before they branched out. Ultimately, it’s their decision, and they can’t be blamed for wanting to escape from the ‘twinkly’ emo before they’re sucked in and unfairly lumped in with worse bands. Let’s hope they can master these transitions as well as they can emo. For what it’s worth, I saw Dads play in Amityville, New York, and for two guys with limited time and a bad venue, they were phenomenal.

If you like this, try: “Where Were You While We Were Getting High?” by One Hundred Year Ocean, an emo EP by a band comprised of some members of recent Dads tourmates The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. I have also reviewed The World Is’ recent debut, as well as the debut from Pity Sex, who were also on the bill. I’m a fan of Topshelf Records and their offshoots.

-By Andrew McNally