Dan Luke and the Raid Try Out Lots of Different Sounds on Their Debut
There are a lot of good elements on Out of the Blue. Kentucky rockers Dan Luke and the Raid might make some great music in the future, but they aren't quite there yet.
Out of the Blue
Dan Luke and the Raid
11 October 2019
Out of the Blue, the debut album from Dan Luke and the Raid, sounds like a record from a young rock band still trying to find its specific style. Probably because that's what it is. The Bowling Green, Kentucky-based quartet comes with a pedigree, as frontman Dan Schultz (middle name Lucas, explaining the band name) is the younger brother of Cage the Elephant's Matt and Brad Schultz. That may explain why Dan Luke and the Raid have a record deal, but since Dan is a much younger sibling (12 and 14 years), he had the opportunity to grow and develop his own tastes and find his own bandmates.
Out of the Blue is a very listenable album, with its ten tracks showing influences from across the rock spectrum. 1960s pop, 2000s garage rock, psychedelia, and southern rock all make their presence felt, while Dan's voice, simultaneously a bit nasally and a bit raspy, helps tie it all together. The opening song gives a pretty good idea of what the band is about. "Farrah Mantra" opens with and uses synth drums throughout, but the fat bass guitar tone and the staccato, distorted guitar sounds of the song remain mostly consistent throughout the album. Schultz sings through his nose, but it's not like a whiny pop-punk singer from the late 1990s. His voice sounds more like a country singer without the twang.
The second track "Disco Is As Disco Does" is a great title for a song that's just alright. The minor key verse is a little creepy, with carefully picked guitars and synths adding atmosphere. The song brightens considerably in the chorus, though, with a catchy, 1960s pop sing-along and a synth solo that serves as the bridge. The two different parts don't mesh together very well, which hurts the song as a whole.
It isn't until the third song, "Exoskeleton", that Dan Luke and the Raid really show what they're capable of. It opens with a catchy, quick guitar line that's ably accompanied by J. Anthony Joiner's bassline. Once the verse starts, drummer Kendrick Don-Reid Brent plays quick 16th notes on a tightly closed hi-hat, keeping up the song's urgency even as the opening guitar line gives way to simple chords. The band hits the pre-chorus, and the guitar line returns, this time with guitarist-keyboardist Dylan Graves playing a second, complementary guitar line. The chorus itself features a driving beat and a soaring vocal melody that push an already intense song to new heights. It's reminiscent of the best of early 2000s bands like Bloc Party and one of the highlights of this album.
From there the album meanders through an enjoyable set of songs that range from the quiet, acoustic guitar and synth-chord laden "Last Goodbyes" to the raucous "Black Cat Heavy Metal", with its heavy beat, distorted vocals, and big, crunchy guitars on the chorus. "Golden Age" may be the most interesting, with its fast and jagged but simple guitar riff being one of the record's most ear-catching. It also features a very noticeable time change, going back and forth from 4/4 to 6/8. "Money Mouth" has some really nice dual guitar work, and the album's best attempt at a quiet verse and a loud, catchy chorus. And then there's the poppy, laid back "Rita Repulsa", a song that isn't particularly interesting musically. But lyrically it abandons Schultz's usual "I've been partying too hard and now have to face the consequences" topics for a high concept song about the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers villain.
Out of the Blue is an album that I consistently liked, but it never blew me away, even on its best tracks. Schultz has some skill as a songwriter, but I don't think he's quite found his voice yet. The guitars, from Schultz and the sadly now-deceased Dylan Graves, show scattered moments of real inventiveness. The guitar solo on "Farrah Mantra" ends by going into a double-time version of the melody, and it sounds like Schultz is working hard to pull it off. That was interesting to me, because with a blues or heavy metal virtuoso playing the same solo that bit would be smooth and cool, but it wouldn't sound nearly as impressive. I think the band's standout player, though, is bassist J. Anthony Joiner, who always plays something interesting while seldom just doubling the guitars or settling for sitting on the basic chords. There are a lot of good elements here, and I wouldn't be surprised if Dan Luke and the Raid have some great music in them in the future, but they aren't quite there yet.