Release Date: Oct 22, 2012
Record label: Astralwerks
Genre(s): Electronic, Alternative/Indie Rock, Club/Dance
In his novella The Diamond As Big As The Ritz, F. Scott Fitzgerald recounts the tale of John T. Unger’s encounter with an all-American plutocratic dynasty whose secret is also the source of their wealth. Our own John O (who is Diamond Rings) also has a story to tell about joining the American aristocracy.
For many artists with lo-fi origins, making the leap from bare-bones recordings to the deluxe studio treatment is often risky; homespun charm can get lost easily in a more professional environment. John O'Regan's debut album as Diamond Rings, Special Affections, was bursting with that kind of quirky appeal -- as well as rock-solid songwriting -- which earned him critical acclaim and tours with the likes of Robyn. So when it emerged that O'Regan had recruited producer Damian Taylor, who had previously worked with such big-sounding artists as Björk and the Killers, to work on his second album, there was a justifiable concern that what made his first album great could get lost in translation.
When John O'Regan first posted his video for "All Yr Songs" in 2009 under the moniker Diamond Rings, it was evident that he was brimming with new ideas and directions that he wanted to explore beyond being a frontman of a rock band. An album and multiple tours later, O'Regan is back with his second album, Free Dimensional, which distils all his pop rock ambitions into something with a clearer vision, stronger sound and hooks that are even catchier than his first record, Special Affections. Free Dimensional is infectiously positive, building off of similar foundations as his previous tracks while boasting a fuller, more dynamic sound, thanks to O'Regan's better understanding of synth-pop hooks and the help of producer Damian Taylor (Robyn, Björk, Austra).
The moment the needle catches the groove on Free Dimensional, white-hot electro-effects romp through New Order–meets–G-funk dance beats while Diamond Rings’ seductive baritone harmonizes scandals of unrequited love and ambivalent liaisons. And although every track could potentially shatter your hip, there are still a few rockers like “Runaway Love,” which charge past with a frenetic lead and automatic drumbeat that could earn an A-OK from Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris. .
Don’t let the endorsement by Mac Cosmetics fool you. Diamond Rings is more than a simple, superficial pop act that will be obsolete before we know it. Somewhere between glam rock and party pop, Free Dimensional, the second LP from Diamond Rings, underscores the fact that most innovation in popular music comes from rearranging the familiar rather than reaching out into the ether to birth something radically new.
The path to pop stardom is hardly a science, but if one were seeking advice, most would likely point the way to dance training and voice lessons, preferably in a major city housing the kind of connections, collaborators and cultural events that are needed for performers with the greatest of ambitions. If you are already an adult and are not well on your way, chances are it’s already too late. Someone like Diamond Rings’ John O couldn’t be further from this mold, growing up in the quiet Toronto suburbs without reasonable access to the artistic world that would fuel a young creative mind, not even seriously pursuing music until he was an adult well into art school.
DIAMOND RINGS plays the Virgin Mobile Mod Club November 29. See listing. Rating: NNN On Free Dimensional, John O'Regan attempts to bring his homemade outsider-pop to a larger audience. Judging by the considerable push he's getting from Astralwerks, these songs will be heard by more ears than his previous efforts.
In 2008, John O'Regan, lead singer of post punk band The D'Urbervilles, was diagnosed and hospitalized for Crohn’s disease, which led to his being confined to a hospital bed for an extended period of time. It was during this time of extensive recuperation that his electro-pop alter ego Diamond Rings was born. A far cry from his work with The D'Urbervilles, O'Regan glammed up and dropped his distinctive baritone over candy-swirl beats and hypnotic synths and his resulting debut album, Special Affections, was littered with dancefloor neuroses and syrupy pop melodies.
Be prepared for a desperate Hollywood type catching wind of John O'Regan's story and turning it into a heartwarming dram-com that you will avoid at all costs. The elevator pitch goes like this: Hospitalized with debilitating Crohn's disease and estranged from his struggling, blue-collar indie rock band, a young man spends his confinement "learning how to reinvent [his] body" and transmogrifies into self-styled pop sensation Diamond Rings. Cue the gender-bending, rainbow-colored makeover, the bubblegum glam-rock songs made almost entirely on GarageBand, and the YouTube videos whose amateur choreography bravely and embarrassingly emphasizes the man's awkward and angular physicality.
Diamond RingsFree Dimensional[Astralwerks; 2012]By Brendan Frank; November 19, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThe fluorescent, acidulous colours radiating out from behind a gender-ambiguous portrait on Free Dimensional's cover provide a reasonably telling look at its contents. Diamond Rings (one man show John O’Regan) longs to capture the over-the-top flair of the 80s, the decade he was born in and draws his influence from. It is O’Regan’s follow-up to last year’s well-received debut Special Affectations, which, despite its roots, occasionally teetered on art pop.
It all goes wrong so quickly. Diamond Rings’ (otherwise known as Canadian musician John O’Regan) sophomore album Free Dimensional opens with a wall of melodramatic synths and drum machines. It’s as good an introduction as any—the beginning soundtrack to a night filled with dance floor debauchery, surrounded by a few friends bent on not taking the whole affair too seriously.
At this rate, don’t be surprised if John O’Regan is launching his new hair metal project by next month. Between fronting his Joy Division-derived post-punk outfit Matters (formerly The D’Urbervilles) and adopting his Kylie Minogue-derived synth pop persona Diamond Rings, O’Reagan could very well be hell-bent on internalizing every dimension of pop music ever formulated in the ‘80’s, a decade that he himself barely had four years to take in. Not that it’s a bad thing.
Great story: disheveled post-punker trades in his decrepit brown notes for rinky-dink Eighties hooks and a vast array of leopard-print tights. Two years on, Toronto's John O'Regan refreshes his Diamond Rings solo project with a sophomore dollop of glam-pop glitz. Free Dimensional is a dance craze on wax. O'Regan's been drawn further away from his guitar and closer to carbonated synths, so he's eager to tell everyone else they can't keep up.