“Walking Backwards.” What an appropriate title for the opener to the debut album from Dewey Defeats Truman, because their sound is walking backwards—in time, that is. It’s almost as though the guys have been asleep since 1994 or so, when college radio pumped candy grunge outfits like Velocity Girl, Sloan, and that dog, and troubadours the Smashing Pumpkins had a cultish heft with Siamese Dream.
In that tradition, B-sides, Rarities, and Out-takes is infused with bubbly distorted guitar bursts, earnestly harmonized and organic vocals, and heartfelt, sunny melodies. The songs are a warm, romping high, with read into one another like a storybook. It’s a tried and true winning formula—a bare-boned, bare-all formula. Example: “Ditch the Tailspin” embraces naked drumming, out-on-a-limb vocals, and soothing guitars, then rolls easily into “Over My Head,” an anchoring track who’s tempo and cacophony make it slightly insistent. But only slightly—remember, Dewey Defeats Truman doesn’t force anything on you in this album. It’s more as if they’re asking, “would you like a cup of tea?” And with pop beginning to melt, and rock making a comeback, the joining of forces on this record may be just what you ordered.
Overall, Dewey Defeats Truman is your friend’s band—like the one you followed around obsessively in college, to every dank basement party. While their sound doesn’t smack you across the face with its uniqueness, it will take you back—to college, to high school, to flannel shirts and 120 Minutes, to road trips of yesteryear. Remember that gas station attendant in Milwaukee, who was new and a little clueless, and looked the other way while you stole all the Little Debbies in the place, stuffed them in your backpack, and ran out the door? This is the album that was in the tape deck as you sped away.