March 05, 2004

Dios "Los Arboles"

It happens maybe once a year. A user name and a few clicks later, and there’s a thread on the Matador Message Board reiterating what most everyone reading already knows: The Beach Boys were great, and Pet Sounds is the best album this young listener has ever heard. Recently, this post implored other readers to agree, but since the thread never grew larger than its original post, it’s safe to assume, like an indie rock Nixon (the president, not the band), that the silent majority sides with the poster and their inaction solidifies the status quo.

Beach Boys worship is a critical moment for many fans of pop music. Often it reflects the turn from Beatles worship toward less globally popular artists, even toward those remembered on oldies stations across America for white bread hits like “Barbara Ann” and “Surfin’ USA”. In short, every time someone “discovers” Pet Sounds, a music critic gets his or her wings, and the road to more sophisticated listens is paved with gold, that is, until they discover that most great music is horrifically ugly, atonal, and woolly. But the gilded harmonies are a good starting point, and Brian Wilson’s deistic approach to songwriting doesn’t turn off the most agnostic listener.

Much has been said of rock/pop geography, and how Dios are a product of their environment, but are Neil Young, The Beach Boys, and the Beatles any more popular out west? There’s no analogue on the east coast, even if TV on the Radio showed some soul/gospel/doo-wop chops on Young Liars, and the once mighty Kansas City hasn’t fostered a nationally meaningful rock scene since the Fifties. So if geography is merely a conceit, then, metonymically, California can be interpreted as breezy pop, vocal harmonies, and chiming guitars, all of which describe Dios’ Los Arboles EP.

The five songs on Los Arboles are the Beach Boys/Lennon introduction to the band, but it’s the second half of their eponymous debut that floored me. On “Birds”, Dios turn in a pitch perfect Neil Young during his Harvest/After the Gold Rush period, soaring pedal steel and vocal harmonies weeping together. Capturing the mood and sound of Young in a manner Grandaddy only dream of is an accomplishment in itself, but during a time when garage and post-punk have been so commercially successful, it’s thrilling to hear a band committed without being cloying to such traditional pop traditions. Infusing a minimal number of samples strikes enough dissonance to keep it sounding original. Dios are a young band that promises a lot going forward.

--JT Ramsay

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