[16 January 2012]
Dreamers of the Ghetto hail from Bloomington, Indiana, and consists of brothers Luke and Jonathan Jones, plus Luke’s wife (and Jonathan’s sister-in-law) Lauren, as well as apparent familial outlier Marty Sprowles. Rather than attempting the sort of freak folk affair that’s so popular with the kids these days, this quartet opts for the big stadium sound of classic era U2 with dashes and dots of Depeche Mode thrown in as well as a criss and a cross from the xx.
It takes the group a moment or two to gain its foothold in the listener’s ear – the opening invocation “Antenna” is nice and all but would ultimately be insubstantial and insignificant were it not merely a prolonged intro for the more focused and melodic “State Of A Dream”, which recalls the early Alarm as much as it recalls Hewson and Co. But it’s not until the catchy-as-the-flu “Connection” that you’re really aware of the power and promise of this band. If there’s a bona fide hit and radio-friendly unit to be had here, it’s probably that one. Once the group has established that groove, other, tastier, hookier pieces follow. “Regulator” is dark and dance-worthy, “Night Hawks” reminds the listener that guitars were invented for a reason – and that’s to add mysterious layers and delicious dashes to slow-building, atmospheric songs.
The group offers up two epics, both of them recalling the aforementioned Alarm. The first, “Always”, clocks in at just under seven minutes and features plenty of heartfelt emoting and hand-clap beats that build and build the deeper we get into the heart of its carefully constructed core. The other, the closer, “Tether”, takes its own sweet time to get where it’s going and at more than seven minutes it’s sometimes hard to know exactly where that is.
If there’s unifying criticism of this album, it’s just that too often this quartet is on its way somewhere, but doesn’t really seem to have mapped out the journey all that clearly. The audience waits and waits and waits, and when the plan is finally revealed you have to wonder if it’s all worth it. Songs build to climaxes that are short-lived or emotionally flat compared to what’s promised at the start; choruses are big but don’t really have the impact, emotional or otherwise, you might expect.
In that way Dreamers of the Ghetto have made some forgivable errors, signs of a band that’s still finding its way, trying out its direction and finding how this fits into that. This is further exemplified by tracks such as “Dark Falcons” and “Phone Call”, tracks that are good but are not equal to the better ones the group develops capably elsewhere.
So if this is a bit of a flawed affair, if it falls a little short of the promise that precedes it, all is forgiven. There are bands that commit sins of ambition that are far more offensive and fail without the grace Dreamers of the Ghetto have here. That alone is worth the price of admiration.