In the grand scheme of things, some bands are simply destined to be remembered for that one hit song from their first record.
In this particular case that’s a damned shame.
What is it?
dada is the third studio album by the band dada (lowercase intentional, for artsy-fartsy reasons), released in late 1998 to almost no fanfare whatsoever, though a couple of songs were played on the radio a few times.
How does it sound?
Like a beautiful sampler mix machine:
Why this pick?
Good question, actually. If you already know about the band then you probably share the common opinion that their debut, Puzzle, is in many ways their strongest work. Whether that’s because or in spite of the hit single, “Dizz Knee Land,” is variable from fan to fan. (I think we can all agree that “Dorina” alone justifies the band’s existence, though.)
But you should know by now how I feel about leaning on laurels earned via debut albums.
dada (the album) sounds to me like the product of a band really trying to figure out what they want to do next, and also figure out how they’re going to make a living at it. Is there more of a commercial sound on this record? Oh, definitely. Did that mean the songs are diminished in quality? I declare, absolutely not.
What I’m really getting at is: In a just and proper world, “Beautiful Turnback Time Machine” would be at least as well known as “Dizz Knee Land.”
Which songs are the highlights?
“Information Undertow” is even more relevant in 2018 than it was in 1998, which is a neat trick.
After the mid-album slump we get three of the finest songs the band ever produced: The delightfully ridiculous “Beautiful Turnback Time Machine,” the gorgeous and bittersweet “Baby Really Loves Me,” and arguably the best mopey-angst anthem of all time, “Spinning My Wheels.”
Which songs don’t work so well?
I can take or leave “California Gold,” actually. It’s the lead-off single, it’s got some catchiness to it, but… it wears out its welcome a bit too early. Somehow it’s the longest track on the album; had they edited it down by a minute or so I think it would’ve held up better.
“Sweet Dark Angel” and “Goodbye” represent the saggy middle stretch of the record.
I’m sure that “Outside” is probably a fine song for most folks but since it’s one of those “a dude and his acoustic guitar moping over a girl” tunes, I have to give it a pass. The tail end of the album is, in fact, where they stuck most of the weakest material. “Agent’s Got No Secret” is a bit of a dull thud to finish on.
Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?
Definitely Puzzle. I listened to that thing through, over and over, for months after I got it. (It was another of the prizes when KGON went “all classic rock” and ditched anything made after the mid-1980s from their library. Man, that job was a goldmine.) Admittedly, artsy California stoner-rock isn’t my usual thing but damn, Puzzle was good enough to win me over anyway.
Any final thoughts?
The band kind of fizzled out after this record, which is a damned shame.
A funny thing happened while doing the listen-through for this week’s post. I’d previously set ratings tags on all the tracks, with a few 4s and a couple of 5s, the rest 3s or less. Basically I was highlighting which songs I absolutely wanted to have come up in random playlist scenarios and marking down the rest. After I’d done that, years ago, I stopped listening to the album all the way through, ever.
This time through I found myself reevaluating almost every star rating I’d set back then. I’d not considered back when I chose “one album per week” as this year’s project concept that making myself fully revisit these albums would result in falling in love with some of them all over again. And yet, here we are. Hot damn.
…no, I don’t know why “damn(ed)” is my word of choice this week, I really don’t. I don’t even have an album by The Damned in this year’s list!