A lot has changed for Darker My Love in the time since they released 2. Most notably, the band experienced the loss of founding member Andy Granelli (who left the band to focus on his family), while Tim Presley dealt with the loss of his father. With so much happening in and around Darker My Love, it’s no surprise that their third album, Alive as You Are, marks a stylistic shift, finding them moving away from their dark and murky sound to lighter, more psych-folk-oriented territories.
With their third Dangerbird-backed album, Los Angeles-based psychedelic rockers Darker My Love have completely shifted gears. The band’s latest finds frontman Tim Presley and friends ditching the heavy jam-banding that’s defined their previous sound in exchange for some earthier ’60s California folk. While extreme stylistic genre-hopping usually feels contrived, Alive as You Are is a pleasant enough recording brimming with lyrical personality—a personality normally buried under DML’s psychedelic drone.
For a band whose allegiances lie with the post-shoegaze/noise scene yet contain members who've played with the disparate likes of The Distillers and The Fall amongst others, it would take a braver man than I to predict exactly whereabouts Los Angeles five-piece Darker My Love are headed next. Having ditched several drummers, along with their previous sound - one-time Brian Jonestown associate Dan Allaire currently resides behind the kit - the 2010 model of Darker My Love is all but a reminder in name-only of the one that set pulses racing in 2008 on second album 2. Granted, one wouldn't have wished for a watered down xerox of its predecessor, but the West Coast psychedelia on a Nashville vacation of Alive As You Are could almost be a different band entirely.
Los Angeles quintet DML's third album makes it hard to guess that two-fifths of the band (vocalist/guitarist Tim Presley and vocalist/bassist Rob Barbato) once served time in Mark E Smith's Fall. The predominant influences here are the Beatles' Revolver, the Byrds' Notorious Byrd Brothers and a haze of post-1967, west coast psychedelia as pungent as the activities they appear to be indulging in on the inner sleeve. Nor would you immediately know that they had metamorphosed from a Loop-type drone band.
On their third full-length album, Alive As You Are, the members of Darker My Love drop the whole neo-shoegaze, Jesus And Mary Chain worship of their first two albums and instead engage in a sampling of different '60s sounds. For those who heard their contribution to the recent 13th Floor Elevators tribute album, The Psychedelic Sounds Of The Sonic Cathedral, the metamorphosis isn't all that surprising. It comes off like a giant tip of the hat to the pioneering psych acts that allowed the bands that marked their earlier output to exist.
When your band's trajectory starts to resemble that of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, that's likely not a good thing-- hell, at this point, I'm sure the members of BRMC would even agree. Whether intentionally or unwittingly, though, Darker My Love are taking plenty of cues from them. Just as BRMC put out a decent debut (2001's B.R.M.C.) and a samey, not-so-decent follow-up (2003's Take Them On, On Your Own), Darker My Love's 2006 self-titled debut was a just-okay neo-shoegaze affair, while 2008's holy-shit-is-that-really-the-title 2 was a tepid sophomore effort that felt monochrome and dulled-over.
As with the psychedelic movement’s drift away from density among many of its original hitmakers, so with its followers. The back-to-the-country appeal by 1969 or 1970 lured the Grateful Dead and the Byrds away from West Coast urban pressures towards gentler pastures. They stripped down their lysergic or cerebral textures and let the fresh air in. Darker My Love does the same on their third album.
It’s always sort of unnerving to hear about an artist taking on a genre transformation. I mean, you’d definitely throw the flag if your local butcher started making pastries or if J.J. Abrams started making romantic comedies – it’s just not what you have in mind when you’re looking for a premium rib eye or a bombastically audacious action film.