Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida

I avoided this album for weeks thanks to the profoundly stupid band name – the same reason I’ve yet to give Diarrhea Planet a fair shake. My bad.

If asked to guess what kind of music a band called Dick Diver might make, well crafted jangle pop probably wouldn’t be among my first dozen tries. Nor would the quartet’s genealogy lead to such a conclusion; Bassist Al Montfort also plays in garagey post-punk outfits Total Control and UV Race, and producer Mikey Young (of the wonderful Eddy Current Suppression Ring) has become something of a Steve Albini-level standard bearer for the Australian DIY scene. All of which makes Melbourne, Florida a disarming surprise of the finest sort.

Melbourne, Florida is actually Dick Diver’s third LP. The last, 2013’s Calendar Days, was shortlisted for one of Australia’s top music prizes, yet this new one sounds like the breakthrough. This time out the quartet seamlessly works in horns and vintage synth washes, coming across as polished while never crossing the line into glossy. Drummer Stephanie Young’s voice helps in this regard – she contributes sublime harmonies yet her two lead turns (“Leftovers” and the Mo Tucker-esque closer “View from a Shakey Ladder”) reveal a strong accent and a timbre untrained enough to mark Dick Diver as staunch independents.

So do their lyrics. “There’s sick on your lapel, Daddy-O. That’s confidence,” sings one of their guitarists, Rupert Edwards or Alistair McKay (I’m not even going to pretend to guess which) on the acerbic “Percentage Points.” Or “You wake up wanting/ To be Tonya Harding” (I’m not sure why) on “Competition,” to an organ-drenched backdrop. It’s the most disquieting and trippiest track here, but no less compelling.

Elsewhere, the goods are delivered more smoothly. “Year In Pictures” is the best Crowded House song of the past 20 years, with a dollop of You Am I’s lost classic rumination on suburban ennui Hourly, Daily thrown in for good measure. The piano progression on “Private Number” sounds straight from the minor key Todd Rundgren songbook, and the drum-free “Blue Time” plays like a Chris Bell coda from Big Star’s #1 Record.

In other words, the overall package is reminiscent of the New Pornographers’ (or more accurately, solo spinoff AC Newman’s) paeans to a 1970s AM radio nirvana that in reality never existed. Other sound reference points would be Teenage Fanclub or Sloan – bands housing four songwriters, operating within a seamless framework of effortless sophistication.

That’s a lot of namedrops for one review, but my point is that they’re all good ones. Dive on in – the water’s fine.

Dick Diver
Melbourne, Florida
[Trouble in Mind]