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As the old adage goes, not many people heard the Velvet Underground in their prime—but every one who did started a band. For those of us growing up amidst the modest-but-thriving indie rock scene of the late ‘90s, the experience was not all that different; for years, my likeminded friends and I left innumerable shows muttering to ourselves “some day I want to be in a band like that.” Bound as we were by the noise constraints of apartment life, we could only imagine following through on this wish, but we could also imagine that there were kids somewhere else in America, blessed with the unfathomable luxuries of garages and drumsets, leaving those same shows, thinking those same thoughts and becoming one of the awesomest bands we would ever see. Turns out that band is from St. Louis, Missouri, and they are called So Many Dynamos.
So Many Dynamos have released two solid albums (The Loud Wars is their third, and their first for Vagrant) and toured relentlessly for years, slowly but surely picking up fervent devotees without succumbing to the bitterness of a band that sees themselves as “paying their dues.” Somehow, they have retained urgency of four friends playing in their basement for the first time, while developing the confidence of a band with hundreds upon hundreds of shows under their belt. And finally, they have made a record that does them justice.
If you have any doubts, wait until the first chorus of “Artifacts of Sound” kicks in. It’s the triumph of the improbable chord change; the moment when the frenetic interplay of the song’s opening verse coalesces into a single walloping gesture. These are songs born of hypnotic repetition and herky-jerk structural discontinuity, unstoppable momentum and haunted ambiance. Produced with detail and nuance by Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie) and mixed with force and consideration by Alex Newport (The Mars Volta), The Loud Wars captures both the band’s energy and their intricacy.
Lyrically, The Loud Wars obsesses over the physics and the metaphysics of sound. Musically, it follows suit—every piece of sonic ear candy has its function towards making the album more coherent and purposeful. The game over-screen introduction to “The Novelty of Haunting” is a clever and apt introduction to a song about being dead, but also the perfect setup for an indelible and melodically sly verse. Epic album closer “The Formula” really has no business staying interesting for over six minutes, but there are enough ebbs and flows— subtle sonic maneuvers that make way for substantial textural and structural changes—that it never loses its hold. Guitar and keyboard lines from past songs resurrected, played backwards, and seamlessly recontextualized, exemplifying an approach that is both playful and considered. The details are always engrossing, the big picture always compelling.
By the time I first encountered So Many Dynamos late last year, I had all but forgotten what it feels like to be totally floored by a previously unheard band’s live show. But there they were, four guys joyfully cranking out music that is spastic but considered, proficient but spontaneous, unabashedly fun and very, very smart. So Many Dynamos could easily get by on musicianship alone, but they seem intent on pushing themselves, finding that perfect balance between dance party communalism and mad scientist experimentation. For all the aesthetic gimmickry and cynical fad-chasing going on these days, it’s bands like this that remind you why you care in the first place. So Many Dynamos are not a breath of fresh air – they’re a fucking blast.
(Bio Written by Matt Lemay)