The Dry Can CD arrived on my doorstep with little preamble and comes packaged in a simple digi-pack covered, somewhat incongruously for a rock band, with a picture of some truly magnificent sunflowers. With minimal liner notes and no hyperbole stuffed press sheet for reference it was something of an enigma and I was at a loss as to what to expect from Dry Can with the sole exception that it arrived from a long-trusted source and so I was more than anxious to give the record a spin. Dry Can are more than worth the time. A band that tap into a mixture of sixties psychedelic rock and early 90s alternative, they frequently recall the bright, breezy rock of the Meat Puppets, although they occasionally enjoy a foray into full on metallic pastures, and the best way to describe ‘Meanwhile’ is as a perfect mix of the melodic, pop-infused sensibilities of the Beatles and the harder, rock edge of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. It’s a simple delight to listen to and perhaps the highest compliment I can pay the band is that listening to their record made me feel like I was a teenager again, discovering such bands in my musty, poster-clad study and studiously scanning the pages of the NME and Melody Maker for the next life-changing act to listen to.
At nearly fifty minutes, ‘Meanwhile’ is not actually as short as it appears when you’re actually listening to it. The songs pass by in a blink of an eye, and opener ‘path’ sets the tone perfectly. Cruising on a pulsing surf rock riff, the song is kept lively by drummer Pascal Desmet’s spritely work and Olivier Crescence’s springy bass. Meanwhile, Antoine Abinun has a voice that is not miles apart from Eddie Vedder and Anne Lupieri sweetens the sound, adding harmonies at key points, their guitars intertwining for a patchouli scented bridge that emphasizes the sixties influences. ‘Aside’ does nothing to darken the path, and part of the reason the album flies by is that it’s light airy where alternative rock is so often downcast and clouded over with an oppressive pall of gloom. That Meat Puppets feel is very much to the fore here with light-touch guitars and a vocal melody to die for. No one really makes music like this anymore, and it harks back to the early nineties when being young seemed simpler and less wrapped up with glimmering screens and endless prophecies of doom (from threats of radicalisation to student fees) cluttering up the horizon. The music is not artlessly carefree, rather it’s beautifully constructed pop played on twisted rock guitars and it evokes those endless summer nights that seem to come further and further apart as life creeps in. ‘Dry eyes’, with its skeletal beat and acoustic guitars, is led by Anne whose wonderful voice is a mix of Justine Frischmann, Beth Gibbons and Kim Deal, and the song progresses into a buzzing cauldron of aching guitars (recalling the latter singer’s band) which leads neatly into the pulsing ‘sort of’ which blazes with the heat of At the Drive In playing Pearl Jam covers. Anne heads up the gorgeous (and aptly titled) ‘something beautiful’ which ripples with reverb-drenched guitar and lovely harmonies. It’s reminiscent of Seafood’s similarly eclectic and beautiful album ‘when do we start fighting’ and it’s followed by the short, haunting ‘nothing came’ and the equally brief ‘Sarah’s blue’, both of which showcase a more introspective side to the band.
Having slowed the pace, the album picks up again with the electric ‘wasted’, a song that reaches an ecstatic climax amidst a wall of swirling guitars before slithering off into the feedback-strewn ‘nu start’, a thrilling, full-tilt blast of chugging guitars and static-smothered vocals. It’s hard to link this distortion-laden blast with the relaxed, sun-kissed melodies that open the record, and the effect is somewhat like an open-palm slap to the face before the band return to more relaxed pastures for the syncopated, arty ‘blue horizons’ which features call and response vocals, slinky guitar work and some truly inventive drumming. ‘Tease’ is a great, twisted rock song with big riffs and, as is so often the case with this band, bigger ideas only for the mood to change again with the gentle acoustic torch song ‘away’. ‘Part time job’ sees the guitars kick in as Anne takes to the mic again, her gritty vocal perfectly matched by echoing guitars and a chorus that makes you want to leap around the room. The album ends, all too soon, with the beautiful ‘Mad aero’, a soothing, melodic balm that leaves you wanting nothing more than to hit play and to lose yourself in the album’s wonderfully eclectic songs once again.
Dry Can’s ‘Meanwhile’ may as well be a compilation of everything I love about music. There are sun-kissed melodies and huge riffs, subtle acoustic songs and full on rockers, one of the best female vocalists I’ve heard in an age and a powerful male singer, moments to head bang to and moments which provoke reflection. It’s a schizophrenic album with a uniform character, an unpredictable record that never disappears up its own orifice and it is an absolute gem. It nods to Radiohead, The meat puppets, the Pixies and Seafood but never resorts to copying them wholesale and I can only imagine how good this band must be live. In short, ‘Meanwhile’ is stunning. It represents the band as a group of artists entirely unafraid to let their muse take them wherever it will, and result is an album that genre-hops nimbly without ever sounding disjointed. There is beauty and anger here, hope and loss, and the result is an album to which you will turn time and again. Find it, buy it, treasure it – your life will be the better for it.