By Mike Shanley
With a name that ranks as the biggest red herring since the New Pornographers, Australia’s Dick Diver comes across as a rarity: a quartet where all four members get equal turns at the mic. Unlike the days when George and Ringo were thrown a bone or two with each album, Melbourne, Florida (Dick Diver’s third) gives all four members take round robin lead opportunities in the first quartet of songs. The sharing continues over the whole album, and this approach comes off less like a patchwork of influences than four angles of strong power pop, one song often seguing into the next for maximum impact.
Guitarist Alistair McKay sets the bar extremely high in opener “Waste the Alphabet,” with four-on-the-floor beat and chiming 12-string guitar parts. He and fellow guitarist Rupert Edwards revisit the path blazed by groups like the Chills and the Clean, where simplicity and sincerity go a long way together. Edwards deals in melancholia similar to Belle & Sebastian too, with tracks like “Private Number” and “Year in Photos.” In “Competition” the guitars take a backseat to some overdriven keyboard arpeggios and dreamy harmonies from McKay and drummer Stephanie Hughes.
Hughes, in addition to playing second banana, gets her own turn in the spotlight in “Leftovers” which has a country feel even before the pedal steel makes itself known clearly. She also gets the final word, on piano in the closing “View from a Shakey [sic] Ladder.” Bassist Al Monfort might not be the choirboy that his mates are, but his nasal delivery (think: Dan Bejar) and lyrical outlook on tracks like “Beat Me Up (Talk to a Counselor)” work effectively in his favor.
After a slew of upbeat, should-be hits, the album starts to mellow out in the final quarter, with quiet strumming and those harmonies taking over. In these moments, it’s important not to overlook the lyrical perspective. The best example comes in the sweet “Blue Time,” with arguably the most poetic assessment of a bygone relationship to come down out of the speakers in a while:
“2008 with what’s her name,
Keys forgotten in the lock
You become events, a ruined duet
You become your voicemail voice.”
It’s hard to write about Melbourne, Florida without resorting to laundry lists of descriptors. There’s a lot here, all of it sounding exquisite.
DOWNLOAD: “Waste the Alphabet,” “Tearing the Posters Down.”