Five years after a major-label deal gone sour temporarily derailed the Damnwells and eventually reduced them from a quartet to a duo (guitarist, singer, and songwriter Alex Dezen and bassist Ted Hudson), their fourth full-length album, No One Listens to the Band Anymore, reveals that the group has not only made its way out of the wilderness, but is producing its strongest and most confident music to date. The key to the Damnwells is in Dezen's songwriting, and the 12 songs on this set are smart, mature, and well-crafted pop music with just enough emotional grit to give his stories traction, along with melodies that sound graceful, evocative, and powerful, whether he's serving up lean, wiry rock & roll on the title cut, "The Experts," and "She Goes Around," pensive acoustic balladry on "Sophia" and "The Great Unknown," nervy but heartfelt folk-rock on "Death Defier," or arena-suitable heartland rock on "The Monster" and "Feast of Hearts." The lyrics are genuinely clever and well constructed, and if there are moments here that may well be referring to challenges involved in keeping the Damnwells alive in the past few years, there are plenty more that deal with the even trickier matter of keeping two people together in a world that can throw a lot in your path, and these songs manage to sound suitably brave and defiant while keeping an eye on the rising stakes of the game. And producer Neal Ostrovsky has dressed up these songs with studio treatments that serve them very well both in terms of sonics and melodicism, while the baker's dozen musicians who give the arrangements color and shape have helped the Damnwells make a record that sounds big and ambitious without overstepping their boundaries or cluttering their own landscape. This album seems to have been created following the radical notion that talented musicians are best left to their own devices if they want to make good music. Who knew? Well, it seems the Damnwells know that very well now, and No One Listens to the Band Anymore finds them more than living up to the potential they displayed on their earlier recordings, and truly coming into their own as musicians and songwriters.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming