[28 July 2010]
Because Dreadzone has spent the majority of its career in the margins of pop music, it’s unlikely that the release of the latest album, Eye On the Horizon, will spark a frenzy. Known primarily as a dub-dance band that has gained a moderate, yet growing and devoted, following on the strength of live shows, Dreadzone’s expertise in buoyant, feel-good vibes has often pegged them as the club-friendlier descendants of The Specials. Much of the band’s output has been aimed at dub-heads, the exception being a small and brief crack in the pop mainstream when the godfather of British radio, John Peel, made Dreadzone a notable name in 1995 on the strength of sophomore effort, Second Light. Since then, the Dreads have carved a niche, perfecting a humble stew of reggae, dance, rock, and ska that, for some reason, commercial radio and larger audiences aren’t lining up to sample. Eye On the Horizon, however, does plenty to cater to a host of new listeners, while never really substituting ingredients or ever selling out. The changes lie more in the arrangements and a bolder approach to melody. Horizon is essentially a dub-drenched exercise in orchestral pop, without actually being orchestral pop. There isn’t an orchestra here, but with the effective use of tight arrangements and sparkling chords, the sound is indeed grand. Still present are the club friendly beats, but they’re now imbued with the lush sweep of sunny, effervescent pop melodies that paints the music in big, bold, colorful strokes. The album’s most touching moments, “Changes” and “Walk Tall” signal not only a new musical direction that strongly beckons to radio (and, thus, your ears), but also exhibit a certain emotional intelligence lacking in much of mainstream pop music today.