Finding new talent is always a personal celebration for me but when that talent finds me, it's even more an endorsement of why I'm happy to spread the word to others. A few months ago, I got a copy of this five-song EP from a group called The Dent, and I'm glad I did. I'm pleased to report that The Dent are indeed quite talented and know a thing or two about creating pleasant sounding songs that fit into the contemporary music scene and yet stand out as being delicately arranged and written. There is care to the sound, and it's a nice listen overall.
While The Dent is new to me, apparently they've been together for some time now. Hailing from Fairfield, Connecticut, this trio first united in the late 1980s, when they all shared the common collective interest of seventh grade. Mitchell Linker, Jeffrey Norberg and D. Rauh (then Dan Rowe) first had a brief stint as a cover band, then began writing music. The Dent quickly learned that nine-minute long epics about peer pressure and suicide, performed in wacky time signatures wasn't appropriate for middle school dances, and began to refine their sound. Over the years, all three have become prolific songwriters (both individually and collectively). Upon graduating high school, the band attended the same college where they continued the affiliation, and began to further hone their sound and develop an identity. In 1995, the group released their first EP, a self-titled effort, while continuing to perform regularly in Connecticut and New York.
By 1998, they had recorded their first full-length and self-produced CD Beauty Cries, which garnered some critical acclaim, but remained a virtual musical secret overall. A few record label and manager promises broken later, the group faced severe debt and a time for contemplation. But after a short respite, the band regrouped -- more confident than ever to pursue their musical dream. As D. Raugh notes, "Many, many years ago The Dent stopped being a hobby and became a way of life. We really can't remember what life was like without it. We have shared the same dream for so long, and we are completely dependent on each other. There is never really a good time to tell someone that you want to be a rock star, but I have noticed that it gets harder and harder after you pass the age of 20. Fortunately, we can share each other's pain, then blow it off and go on making the music we love."
The results are a very strong five-song EP called Neurotica. The Dent added Dennis Cotton, a talented percussionist with a really long goatee to be their de facto fourth member (Dennis often still plays with other slightly bigger name acts in order to make extra money to feed his family). Perhaps this third release will be the charm that wins them the recognition their music so deserves.
These guys are active consumers of music, listening to a lot of what is out there and what has come before. It shows in the way they write and perform their music. They know their pop/rock references, and insist on using live drums to get an honest rock sound. D. Raugh says The Dent will never try to get away with drum programming: "Some people are fooled, but not the people who really care."
Care is what goes into the five songs found here, with clean production by D. Rauh, mixed and mastered by Peter Moshay. "End of the World" recalls a gentle David Gates/Bread sort of sound, updated for a new millennium. Mitchell Linker's voice is a pleasure to listen to, and the Jeff Norberg guitars and subtle harmonies are arranged ideally in this tale of a relationship's end wherein things have just run their course. In a more open world, this song would find its place on the radio beside the likes of Evan & Jaron or Matchbox 20.
"Several Sides of Sadness" is another well-crafted song with pleasingly sweet guitar lines. This bitter yet wistful reminisce of another love lost, and thoughts of trying to regain what was: "Thought you might have let me go / You loved to live your life alone / Thought you might have let me know / Your soft and supple smile of stone / Begged you for emotion / Resign to pine my valentine / Cried in desperation as you said that you were fine".
"Over You" is a slow contemplative soft ballad in the style of R.E.M., lyrics bemoaning being lost in emptiness (following -- guess what? -- another failed relationship). While the music is wonderful, one begins by this point to long for something resembling a little bit more redeeming from the lyrical subject matter.
The title track "Neurotica" is more upbeat, with driving guitars pulsing it forward, a stinging tongue-in-cheek indictment of the modern music industry, and how in spite of daunting odds, you have to hold on rather than sell out. The message here is that no one knows anything when it comes to trends: "Neurotica will stop hip-hop / So sell your stock in metal rap-rock / And pop will drop and boy bands flop / And there'll be no more Latino / Pick up the phone it's Rolling Stone".
"Weightless" closes this inviting sampler, another soft sensitive ballad that builds eventually off of Linker's sweet voice and the harmonies of the other group members. The Dent are not novices, they know how to create gently infectious songs that pull you in from the start. If the talent and sound of these five radio-friendly songs are any indication, someone should take note and sign them up for another full-length release.
Mitchell Linker himself says "Half of the joy in discovering great new music is the pleasure that comes with experiencing it with those whom you care for and hearing it through their ears." As such, I'm more than happy to share my discovery of The Dent and their winning third release Neurotica with you readers. If you like your power pop on the sweet side -- I urge you to please check them out.