Dick Diver - Calendar Days 12 inch
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Melbourne’s Dick Diver get (a little bit) older and wiser on their fine second album, writes VICTORIA BIRCH.
With only 18 months between them, it can be difficult to tell Dick Diver’s first album New Start Again and their second Calendar Days apart. Both records distil ordinary life into bright, dog-eared pop songs flecked with pathos and mild subversion. Both exist in those few years between adolescence and adulthood where the need to grow-up is tempered by youth tugging at your sleeve, willing you to go back to scrounging cigarettes and scrawling obscenities on park benches.
If Calendar Days differs it’s because Dick Diver are now a bit more grown-up. Where the conflation of creative expression and pissing about produced a lazy kind of experimentation, on this record oddities have context and purpose. Like on ‘Boys’ where the oily, strange narrator sidles up to a bass line that sounds so weed addled it can barely be bothered to keep going. It’s an unsettling backdrop to a simple childhood tale, yet one that cleverly reinterprets events through adult eyes. Similarly ‘Languages of Love’ could be irritatingly smart-arsed if the band didn’t make sure there was an empathetic soft spot to neuter the sarcasm.
These are points where it feels like Dick Diver are getting a handle on their smarts. They’ve honed the stuff they’re already good at ie. melancholic pop songs done sunny-side up. The title track and ‘Water Damage’ are gorgeous hangovers from the first record, all heavy-hearted vocals buoyed by guitars chiming with support group positivity. There’s additional confidence in the detail, like the grainy saxophone at the end of ‘Blue and That’ and the way ‘Amber’ traces a languid finger across six minutes of slow build momentum.
‘Amber’ is the only song carrying a bit of excess fat. If age nurtures a more thoughtful approach, it also prompts an urgency to get things done. The album is barely more than half-an-hour long and the remaining songs snap-shut around the two- to three-minute mark. It all starts with a drum machine marking time like a ticking clock. As if the band are aware life is no longer one long endless summer and they’re now on count down to a tangible end point.
“Dick Diver have a knack for the universal not the parochial”
That said, getting older doesn’t mean moving on, does it? They’re still local heroes, right? Well, mentions of Channel 9, Queen St and TV Weekall lend a comfort blanket familiarity but really, these don’t make Dick Diver a quintessentially Australian band. Diver have a knack for the universal not the parochial. Take the duet on ‘The Two Year Lease’ and its heavy pauses that point to once easy conversation soured to dry awkwardness. And the way ‘Gap Life’ pitches a sofa shaped rut against fantastical thoughts of escape. These aren’t specific to our little corner of the world, they’re in every place where people struggle to get their shit together.
Dick Diver can buff the mundane till it shines and are unapologetic about arrangements that sit at the easy end of the listening scale. But maybe the best part is that age has yet a burden to them. The essential part of being a kid, living in the moment, doing things just because they feel good stomps across ‘Alice’ and ‘Lime Green Shirt’.
Shiny guitars and lovely layered vocals bound out of the speakers with the joy of a particularly enthusiastic labrador. Firing all the happiness neurons, the songs send bucket-loads of serotonin sloshing through your system till the tips of your everything are itching to dance. Screw critical analysis – this is pure pleasure, the stuff that makes a mundane life worth living.