Release Date: Oct 4, 2011
Record label: Temporary Residence
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Dreamers of the Ghetto frontman Luke Jones has this great big voice; not just recording-booth big, but grain-silo big, the kind so rousing, so grandiose, it'd overpower anything short of an anthem. And so Dreamers of the Ghetto write anthems, all these great big songs to go with their frontman's great big voice. Enemy/Lover, their debut LP, is not just indie rock-club big.
That Dreamers of the Ghetto should start their 2011 release with a stretched-out shimmer pitched halfway between My Bloody Valentine's most serene moments and what could be Vangelis' in turn seems perfectly apt -- which makes it a bit of a pity when "Antenna" ends and the raspy-voiced, roughly mechanistic "State of a Dream" rocks and chugs along, as it's a bit like interrupting a flight to the Moon with a retro beer commercial. This kind of grilled cheese/peanut butter sandwich combination isn't unprecedented per se, but where a band like Working for a Nuclear Free City often let loose to the full on all fronts and the War on Drugs continued to refine their Dylan-does-space-rock approach over time, Enemy/Lover rapidly shows signs of being just another big-and-anthemic indie rock album of the 21st century, however keyboard swells and drones arc around the arrangements and sometimes, as on "Always," see it out on a nice final note. If anything, the full-bodied embrace of the scale if not exact sound of late-'80s/early-'90s Simple Minds and James as well as U2 shows a band that has learned its sonic lessons almost unnervingly well.
Last month, Dreamers of the Ghetto played a headlining spot at Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival, an honor they shared with such indie giants as Superchunk, Guided By Voices, and the Flaming Lips. The bold curatorial choice to let these relative newcomers play the big City Plaza stage rather than one of the dozen or so small venues participating in the festival made a lot more sense if you’d heard the band’s style of atmospheric arena rock, which updates the well-tested chime-and-holler of U2 by anchoring it in the type of moody synth tones definitive of indie’s current moment. Like fellow luminaries of the school of big, sad rock anthems (say, Low or Explosions in the Sky), Dreamers of the Ghetto make music that’s suited just as well to the privacy of headphones as to the stadium, settled just at the vanishing point between isolation and universality.
Dreamers of the Ghetto hail from Bloomington, Indiana, and consists of brothers Luke and Jonathan Jones, plus Luke’s wife (and Jonathan’s sister-in-law) Lauren, as well as apparent familial outlier Marty Sprowles. Rather than attempting the sort of freak folk affair that’s so popular with the kids these days, this quartet opts for the big stadium sound of classic era U2 with dashes and dots of Depeche Mode thrown in as well as a criss and a cross from the xx. It takes the group a moment or two to gain its foothold in the listener’s ear – the opening invocation “Antenna” is nice and all but would ultimately be insubstantial and insignificant were it not merely a prolonged intro for the more focused and melodic “State Of A Dream”, which recalls the early Alarm as much as it recalls Hewson and Co.