For its second album, local quintet Dropkick the Robot has tightened its moody, layered Britpop sound. Although the band's debut, Two Feet, often sounded like well-adorned folk-rock, on Join the Club, electric guitars and drums cut a clear path through vocalist and guitarist Dan Mehrmann's songs. The band decamped to London's famed Abbey Road Studios to have the disc mastered by engineer Geoff Pesche, who has worked with Coldplay, the Gorillaz and the Spice Girls. While mastering is a post-production task best understood by audiophiles and gearheads, the band's pilgrimage to the world's most famous studio says as much about its Anglo-rock influences as it does a commitment to creating a professional product.
And Club certainly sounds sharp, with crisp production and a tightly reined sound that still leaves enough air for experimentation. True to its name, "Spaced Out" begins with 8-bit synth chords before settling into pretty, propulsive rock & roll that contains more than a few nods to vintage U2 guitar tones. "Souls to Deliver" grooves with a little Stevie Wonder-esque clavinet funk and some ragged blues guitar, but as on the rest of the album, the song circles back to a big, clear chorus. DtR is a band not afraid to stretch out as long as there's a direct line back to the hook.
Dropkick the Robot is at its best on the album's clean pop songs. In fact, the band members are smart enough not to make their songs overly artsy; they've even abandoned the minor Radiohead tics from the first album. Club ends on a strong note with the piano ballad "All This is True," which owes more to early Rufus Wainwright than it does to Coldplay; Merhmann even stretches his syllables to sound pouty, just like the celebrated piano man. That's the trick to Club: Its songs give Mehrmann something to push against without getting in the way of his controlled, lightly salted vocals.
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