Div Kid really should have garnered more attention for their self-titled full-length debut in the summer of 2009. It was a pretty good pop rock record. "Sooner or Later" has a high sing-along quotient, with an air of Joe Jackson, and "Boston" was a cool stretching of boundaries, with a fast twang that showed punkabilly influence.
BIG THREE Div Kid.
As a whole, though, it felt like frontman Ty Drown tossing out songs he'd written rather than a band with firm identity.
Colors, the band's new EP, released this Saturday at the Empire, is definitely more tightly focused, which is obviously easier when you limit yourself to just five songs. Here, Drown sticks to a general formula of slightly abstract vocals, in the second person, that coalesce into big and poppy choruses. He's emotional, Drown is, and there's quite a bit about crying and dying and lying, but such is the stuff of love songs and rock and roll.
"Love and Suicide," for example, the album's opener, where Drown is "standing in an awkward feeling." Matt Shardlow's bass in this song, and throughout the album, is mixed to the fore, with tons of body (Shaun Michaud did the recording, Steve Drown the mastering). Listen to it in your car and you might just rattle right off the road. At times, it's like a metal song with a regulator on it, four notes in the low end then jumping up to four notes in tearing guitar.
"Tinted" opens with nothing but bass, but then drummer Stefen Samuels (he was on that Clubber Lang album last week, yes) changes things up with a quick high-hat that lends a ska nod. It's almost a radio rocker like those all-ages band do, but Kris Rodgers's guest turn on Hammond organ adds a classic rock vibe.
But more '80s and '90s than '60s and '70s. "Careless Day" gets close to Van Halen's "Panama" in the guitar, but veers melancholy instead of high-energy vamp. "Breathe It Out" is like the Gin Blossoms' "Hey Jealousy" in the verse before pounding the pre-chorus and chorus as deep into your head as possible (I could have used a little less repetition). "Disintegrate" is a direct descendant of "Sooner or Later" from the last album, but this time I hear more Smithereens than Jackson.
None of which is to imply that Div Kid are overly derivative. They're just a fun rock band who get you thinking about your back catalog. That's a good thing.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COLORS | Released by Div Kid | with Will Gattis | at the Empire, in Portland | Dec 4 | myspace.com/divkidmusic
CORRECTION The print version of this review mistakenly cited "Panama" as having been written by Def Leppard.