Dios Malos / Dios

Dios (Malos)

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Thanks to Ronnie James Dio's insistence that Dios change their name to Dios (Malos), the California-based indie rockers get to have two self-titled debut albums. Technically, of course, Dios (Malos) (note how the unwanted appendage to their name is stuffed into parentheses) is the band's sophomore full-length, but it feels and sounds different enough from Dios that it might as well be a second first album. Though the subject matter -- girls, introspection, drugs, girls -- the band covers is largely the same on both albums, how they approach it on Dios (Malos) makes all the difference. With help from producer Phil Ek, Dios (Malos) emphasize their way with hooks and downplay the hazy sonics of Dios for an album of sunny, instead of smoggy, Californian pop. The change takes some getting used to, and the late-night charm of the first album is undeniably missed, but Dios (Malos) shows that the band can in fact pull off a much brighter, more playful sound. In fact, many of the brightest, most playful moments also end up being the album's best. Ek's clean, direct production is the perfect foil for lively, tightly written songs like "Grrrl," "I Want It All," and "Feels Good Being Somebody," which is downright power poppy. Ek and Dios Malos explore the sheer joy of pop sounds (the album's artwork isn't covered in production and arrangement charts for nothing) on "Tokyo Sunrise," a fun instrumental that borrows and blends '50s rock chord changes, castanets, and lush string parts. However, not all of Dios (Malos) is this big and bright. A handful of songs recall Dios' dreaminess without feeling like they're stuck on the wrong album. The aptly named "Old Field Recordings" does indeed sound the most like the band's earlier work, while the shimmering "EPK" and standout ballad "Say Anything" share bittersweet melodies that are decorated with trippy noodling. The only songs that end up falling flat are the band's self-pitying odes to pot and alcohol. "So Do I" captures the feeling of hanging out with stoned, rambling friends all too well; "My Broken Bones" reprises Dios (Malos)' Neil Young-inspired sound with less inspiration. Both songs are so long and meandering -- especially compared to the pop that surrounds them -- that they nearly stop the album's momentum in its tracks, but Dios (Malos)' better songs end up prevailing. Lacking the fragile, heartbroken mystique of Dios, this album is a shade less captivating, but as Dios (Malos) have had to learn, change (even when it's not wanted) can be pretty good.

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