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De Novo Dahl

Move Every Muscle, Make Every Sound

(Roadrunner; US: 25 Mar 2008; UK: Available as import)

Electric Boots and Nudie Suits

Move Every Muscle, Make Every Sound is the full-length follow up to 2007’s The Shout EP, and it opens with the “Shout” single, a catchy confection of sunny spirit and sing-song sweetness. This first sonic impression fits right in with De Novo Dahl’s candy-colored, bubblegum and country-glam visual image. The Nashville quintet looks like it could have stepped right out of a book by the children’s author, Roald Dahl, from whom the band takes its name. 


It just as easily could have walked out of a mid-‘70s flashback, complete with late model Nudie suits and an A.M. radio vibe. Singer and guitarist Joel J. Dahl obviously has sensibilities steeped in the traditions of that era. A multitude of keys and winking, cheeky lyrics like “You’re a wicked drug / And I’ve been bitten by your bug / Every time I look at you / I realize I am surely through / I want to break your heart / But I don’t think I’ll get very far / Cuz you’ve been breaking mine / From the start,” bring to mind crossover TV teen-idols and K-Tel collections.


“Means to an End” highlights co-vocalist Serai Zaffiro, whose straightforward sing-speak style helps anchor Dahl’s more theatrical inflections, but the song itself is rather bland. “Make Some Sense” returns to the pure pop pleasure of the opening track, with its merry, melodic bass line (courtesy of Keith Lowen) and new wave keyboards (Moose Hungate, and guest player Mark Bond). “Be Your Man”, a song recycled from earlier recordings, is another high energy crowd pleaser built around an irresistible beat from drummer Mixta Huxtable. Though, again, it doesn’t really fit with the other tracks, but it easily could be a hit single.


“Shakedown” is another standout stand-alone track. Arguably the best song here, it is reminiscent of the most popular ‘70s radio staples: a bit of a guilty pleasure with horns and catchy choruses that never fails to get people on their feet, like something from KC and the Sunshine Band’s back catalogue. The momentum disappointingly stalls again on “Marketplace”, a disturbingly dirge-like track, which sounds as if it was written by the bastard child of Wayne Coyne and Thom Yorke.


Other modern influences like The Shins or Arcade Fire can be heard in De Novo Dahl’s use of unusual instrumentation such as the omnichord, or in the way the male/female vocal dynamic plays against the frenetic musical arrangements. “The Sky Is Falling” abruptly changes direction once more, and is the aural equivalent of amphetamines at Palisades Park—the coaster brakes are shot. “Wishful Thinking” is the next notable song mainly because it apes a Bowie riff, which is normally a good thing, but here is just overkill. Echoes of The Flaming Lips resurface on “Not to Escape”, but the acoustic epic, the album’s closing track, is a rather depressing way to end what began on such a positive note.


Move Every Muscle, Make Every Sound has occasional bright spots, but as a whole the album doesn’t achieve any sort of cohesiveness. It’s thematically scattered and schizophrenic, as if the band couldn’t settle on a sound and so threw a bit of everything into the mix hoping for an alchemical reaction. All the basic elements are there, but unfortunately, a few flashes of gold are not quite enough to lift the lead from the rest of the record.

Rating:

Christel Loar is a freelance writer and editor, a part-time music publicist, and a full-time music fan. She is often an overreactor and sometimes an overachiever. When not dodging raindrops or devising escape plans, Christel is usually found down front and slightly left of center stage reveling in a performance by yet another new favorite band.


Tagged as: de novo dahl
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