Dropsonic: Belle

Jason Thompson



Label: 54 40 Or Fight!
US Release Date: 2002-04-30

If there's one thing that can be said for Dropsonic, it's that they truly rock hard. Another band to land on the 54 40' Or Fight! imprint, a label that houses other eclectic groups such as 31 Knots, Dropsonic smack the listener over the head with their blistering hard rock swagger and over the course of eight songs barely take the time out to breathe between notes. But that's all right, as these guys have a definite sound that feels like it could figure into some radical change on the radio dial sometime in the future.

But the question often that often remains is can such a group really get heard outside of the college/indie playlists? One would hope that after a fashion some of these bands waiting in the wings would be paid attention to and not left behind as another cool band that gets three sentences in the back of some large conglomerate's rock mag, forever banishing said group between ads for Absolut and Old Navy.

Still, one would have to surmise that, as they always do, the chips will eventually fall in favor of one of these bands. Dropsonic should be such a group. With a balls-to-the-wall sound that refuses to let up, this trio (featuring Dan Dixon on guitars, vocals, and keyboards, Dave Chase on bass, and Brian Hunter on drums) plays a gutsy brand of rock that echoes the arena heroes of decades before and the kind of in your face indie pulse that can easily hook those with their ears cocked in the right direction.

For one thing, there's new drummer Brian Hunter who may as well be the band's centerpiece as much as Dixon and his guitar. Hunter knows how to lay down a steady beat that can easily flex into an impressive array of fluid fills and shake your ass boogie that never sways from locking down his bandmates into their respective positions. Listen to how the drums sound larger than life on the opening track, "Stolen", how they shimmer on "Eyesore", and explode on the jaw-dropper "Good Intentions".

Elsewhere, this band has been compared to Led Zeppelin, and that's not a bad comparison at all to make when it comes to "Good Intentions". Dixon's guitar work sounds like Jimmy Page circa Physical Graffiti, or perhaps "Royal Orleans" from the Presence album. But there's more to the sound than mere Zep recycling. In fact to just leave it at such comparisons would be wrong, as the group plot their own trajectory 98 percent of the time here. One listen to the tasty kinetic crunch of the closing "No Reply" will prove that these guys have thought out their sound quite well and could wind up standing alone in a room if thrown up against other competitors. There is a sense of familiarity here, but it never outweighs the impressive originality that peppers each of the songs here.

On top of that, there's Dixon's singing, which adds another punch of sharpness to the Dropsonic sound. His higher register perfectly complements the groups' lower rocking tones. Rather than having an expected grumbler on their hands, Dropsonic let the vocals soar high over the music, turning in a perhaps unexpected element that provides another nice surprise from this band. And of course there's the tasty bass work from Brian Hunter that thankfully doesn't get buried in the mix. It's right up front with the other instruments where it should be, as Hunter positively throws down all over these songs. One need only check out "Congregate" to hear the proof.

Belle is a well-constructed album that doesn't overstay its welcome. But how could it at eight songs? I'm thinking that more bands should perhaps take this route and not dump a ton of songs on their discs just because they can. After all, eight great songs versus 14 or 15 with a 50 to 75 percent ratio of good to bad stuff seem a lot more logical. At any rate, Dropsonic have a super third album on their hands that should be heard and appreciated. Who knows? Maybe these guys will be the next great thing.





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