Catch Without Arms

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It makes sense that Terry Date produced Catch Without Arms, Dredg's second record for Interscope. The producer is a veteran of Deftones albums, and it's that band's rich but still rocking palette that's the intent here. And they succeed. Like past Dredg releases Catch has a conceptual flow. But openers "Ode to the Sun" and "Bug Eyes" focus the grandeur and meandering pace of the band's past work around effective melodies and a steadiness in the rhythm. The choruses emphasize the Bono/Chino Moreno in Gavin Hayes' vocal, and when the rhythm drops out for a contemplative piano moment, nothing feels forced because this is what Dredg has been working toward for years. It's not like in the blurry emo world, where string sections crash regularly into soliloquies and it usually just ends up as melodrama. Catch Without Arms looks to groups like Deftones and At the Drive-In, but there's also a tremendous capacity in Dredg for straightforward pop. The title track is a standout, as is "Zebraskin," which with its keyboards and silky beat could be Cousteau or Sweetback. No kidding. And then the churning guitar intro of "Tanbark Is Hot Lava" drops, and you're bewildered again. "Sang Real" features drum processing and treated piano, "Planting Seeds" has the tension/chorus release quality of contemporary Brit-pop, and "Spitshine" has one of the record's strongest melodies. Dredg does lose the thread occasionally. The wandering "Jamais Vu" sounds like a stoned Incubus, complete with undergraduate love letter lyrics. ("I will wait all of this time above you/is that what you wanted?") And the album could've really used more of the band's rocking side, to balance the band's prodigious use of atmosphere. But "Hung Over on a Tuesday" offers just such a blend, and "Not That Simple" opens its chorus with a satisfying distortion crunch that's predictable, but nevertheless irresistible. The influences in Dredg's sound swirl thicker than ghosts above a cemetery. Still, Catch Without Arms works. It focuses the band's exploratory qualities instead of reigning them in completely.

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