The Dimes started a buzz with a bright, poppy 2006 EP that featured a "hit" single, "Catch Me Jumping," the story of a friend who enlisted in the navy, went a bit crazy, and jumped off of his ship in the Persian Gulf. The tune has a bright, bouncy beat, driving acoustic/electric guitars, a slightly surrealistic lyric, and the bright, breezy vocals of guitarist, songwriter, and bandleader Johnny Clay. The band's restrained performance puts the band's sound halfway between folk-rock and pure pop, while Clay's vocals are simply stunning. Just before they started recording their debut, second guitarist Pierre Johnson discovered a stash of Depression era newspapers hidden beneath the floorboards of his Portland, OR house. Clay began reading the old papers, then writing songs about the colorful stories he discovered. The songs he produced maintain the band's folk/pop feel. Even when the subject matter is grim -- the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the hard times families faced in the Great Depression -- Clay brings a ray of sunshine to the tale with his upbeat melodies and optimistic singing. "The Jersey Kid" gives us the brief outline of a murder trial that ends with a death sentence. Crisp acoustic guitars, a bright wordless chorus, and the playful rhythm of flamenco handclaps give the tune an upifting feel, despite the grim subject matter. "New York, 1930" tells the story of a pro-Sacco-Vanzetti demonstration that became a vicious riot. Clay sings "The Reds are rioting in Times Square..," to the strum of an acoustic guitar, a chorus of angelic overdubbed harmonies, and what sounds like a Baroque recorder tooting in the background. It's another beautiful, surrealistic moment. "Letters in the Sea" is a song about a box of 300 letters that washed up on the Jersey shore. Clay wonders about the effect the undelivered letters had upon those who never got them. His poignant vocal and the band's quiet modern rock arrangement -- think of a brighter, lighter New Order -- give the song an aura of ambiguous mystery. While the songs provide snapshots of a bygone America -- an obituary of Emmy Destinn, the top opera star of her day; the tale of a man who survives a bullet to the head only to find that he can't sleep, and stays awake for the rest of his life -- the Dimes' soft rock delivery is completely modern, investing the tales with the humanitarian romance of a Frank Capra movie. The Dimes have done what most bands dream of, creating an alternate universe of warm pop music with a sunny vibe that'll keep toes tapping and plaster a sunny smile on every listener's face.
AllMusic Review by AllMusic