I first heard Dear Landlord when I helped throw together an impromptu show at the Charm City Art Space when the power went out at the Ottobar during the 2007 Insubordination Fest and some bands unfortunately had to get bumped from the main event. I'd seen Adam and Brett in their other band, the Copyrights, who I thoroughly enjoy, so I was excited to see what they'd put together with half of Minneapolis' Rivethead. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. I don't think I had seen a band combine melody and energy like this since Avail first left me awestruck so many years ago. Like a more aggressive Screeching Weasel, the songs were so powerful and so infectious and just so right it was really quite incredible. The basement of the Charm City Art Space was a much superior setting for a band like this than the tall stage of a club like the Ottobar (though you can bet this 33-year old will surely be dusting off the stagedives when they do start inevitably packing the larger clubs). The band's sound and energy demand a place where the crowd reaction is up close and personal. It makes the impact that much more intense.
Dear Landlord open up their debut full-length with the immediately captivating "I Live In Hell". The song packs everything that is great about the band in this just-over-a-minute-long song: group vocals on a heaping chunk of the verses, as well as most of the choruses, peppy tempos, and solid 'fuck you, this is my life and I quite like it' lyrics. The perfect opener for this album. Their lyrics really hit the mark when they ride that theme, especially on "Three To the Beach", which was previously released on the aforementioned split with Chinese Telephones, which is also very possibly their best song. If you ask me, these lyrics just perfectly capture the spirit of punk rock:
"...we're not that hopeless, we're not as fucked as you think
in short lived moments we can do anything
the fucking joke is we're winning when you blink
in short lived moments lousy with victory
we're both sort of right
I don't have much to show, I'll die penniless alone
I'll do what I like, you'll do what you know
never hungry, broke, or cold
that's the way of things I suppose..."
Many of the other songs' subject matter trek the path well blazed by bands like Off With Their Heads, in that they have no problem with self-deprecation and depression, but there's a much stronger element of hope here. Life's not quite so dire with these guys, and if it is, they're comfortable with it and letting music (and alcohol) be the thing that gets them through the struggles of daily existence. "Whiskey and Records" combines the drunken reveling of Rivethead with the powerpop choruses of the Copyrights in the most well-balanced combination of the members' previous/other bands.
Though I do have my gripes with the album (the very-nearly tired allusions to drinking/being drunk/whiskey-soaked nights/etc. [though I'll give the opening lyrics to "Rosa" a pass as they're a bit more clever than most:
"she talks as loud as hell, drinks like she might as well
smokes my cigarette just like it's her last
all kinds of out of key, she sings a lot like me
and it echoes back under the overpass downtown..."]
and the fact that almost of a quarter of the songs on the album have been previously released or readily available for listening for quite some time, the same gripe I had with the Off With Their Heads album) it is a very legitimate contender for record of the year for me. This is one I'll be singing along to in the car for a long long time.