Grand Champeen

Dial T for This

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The first track on Grand Champeen's fourth album, 2007's Dial T for This, starts out with the thunder of guitars, the clatter of drums, and the rumbling of electric bass -- which soon stop dead, with a piano and a string section fading in to replace them. While the guitars and drums do return midway through "What It Beats," this opening is certainly a portent of things to come -- anyone familiar with the Soul Asylum-esque crash and growl of Grand Champeen's earlier albums or their spitfire live shows will be more than a little surprised with the restraint shown on Dial T for This, which trades in their ragged-but-right rock & roll for a less aggressive and much poppier sound. "Nice of You to Join Us" is reminiscent of the revved-up twang-pop of the V-Roys, "The Songs You Want to Hear" is worthy of the early dB's, "Olivia" could pass for Badfinger in dim light, and "Cities on the Plain" is (believe it or not) a dead ringer for Game Theory with its aggressive but sweetly melodic guitar lines and buoyant synth counterpoints. While some fans may be disappointed that Dial T for This doesn't bring the rock with the same intensity as Grand Champeen's earlier recordings, this album does push the band's songcraft front and center, and the results demonstrate they have every right to be proud of these tunes. (And they still can and do crank it up on occasion; cue up "To the Ides" for proof.) The bandmembers also produced and recorded the album themselves (without the use of Pro Tools, as they proudly emphasize), and given the beery swagger of their previous disc, The One That Brought You, it's a truly impressive step forward. However, it's hard not to wish Grand Champeen could have hit a middle ground between the frantic slop of The One That Brought You and the clean precision of Dial T for This; every so often this music feels as if Grand Champeen are forcing themselves into a sound that isn't quite them, and just a little more abandon would do this album a world of good.

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