It’s hard to believe that Balance The Light is Dropkick’s 14th album. The East Coast Scots certainly don’t sound (or look) like grizzled veterans of the rock’n’roll world while the album is as fresh as a daisy and brimming with energy. Over the course of 16 years they’ve gathered a well deserved reputation as purveyors of power pop and sunny jangled country tinged rock, an idiom that we rain sodden Scots seem to do well in (see Teenage Fanclub, Daniel Wylie, Attic Lights) while they are, to paraphrase Tom Waits, “big in Spain.” Their 2013 album, Homeward, saw the band, by then a five piece, expand their horizons with more keyboards in the mix, an occasional melancholic air and some tantalising glimpses of an almost psychedelic buzz. Balance The Light continues in this vein. There’s still a jangle in their stride but as befits a band with older heads on their shoulders that stride is more paced and measured, pausing to reflect.
Having said that Dropkick are still adventurous and this is evident on the opening song here, Save Myself. The song opens with a hazy shimmer, a guitar charged slow beat, the vocals delicate, almost strained although the harmonies remain in place. Halfway through a synthesised noise begins to beep and flutter as if the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop had popped in and the band step up the pace as the song reaches a crescendo in a thrash of sounds. It’s an exhilarating opener which recalls the more experimental side of Wilco and the sonic wizardry of Todd Rungren. It’s the most way out number here but its layers of sound are reflected throughout the album. I Wish I Knew shape shifts between Beatles like guitar harmonics and swelling organ notes with a fine McGuinn type guitar solo at its centre. Wake Me In The Morning is a gossamer thin confection which sits atop a repetitive synth sound, gradually replaced by stately piano chords and burnished guitar before returning at the end of the song.
Elsewhere the band continue with the groove they hit on Homeward. There’s a Neil Young kick on the closing Think For Yourself and Out Of Love Again flows along like a meeting of The Only Ones and The Byrds while they actually offer a song called Homeward which is suffused with the vulnerability of Alex Chilton and the chug along country soul of Neil Young. Here the guitars curl and the organ sweeps the rhythm along as Andrew Taylor sings like a lost soul. Again much of the words on the album continue in the vein of its predecessor, Taylor trying to salvage relationships, most nakedly expressed here on the gentle A Long Way To Go.
Despite the above litany of influences there’s no doubt that Dropkick have a sound of their own. They have a heftier take these days on their sunshine sound, the guitars more muscular, the backdrop more ornate. Before The Light sees Andrew Taylor’s brother, Alistair, leaving the fold (although he mastered the album). There’s a continuity of sorts however as he was replaced by Roy Taylor (no relation), returning to the band after a five year hiatus.
The album is released on 25th March. If you pre purchase it here you can get an additional three unreleased songs. The band are playing some shows in support of the album release including dates in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee in April. Dates here