Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
The Speed of Things
Oct 08, 2013 Issue #47 - September/October 2013 - MGMT
We're all familiar with the enigmatic struggle of sophomore albums. There is an unfair expectation for a band to stick to what they know—or, more accurately, what we know—and also the need to expand to new horizons and stretch the boundaries.
But can't it just be okay to keep being good? Is there a happy medium where we can reward consistency, as long as it's not boring? Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. proved their pop prowess on their debut, It's a Corporate World, and now they've doubled down on their funky sensibilities with The Speed of Things. It's purely charismatic and soulful, and a nearly flawless presentation. In some sense, it is more of the same, so there aren't a lot of big surprises, good or bad.
Some highlights include the dreamy poetry of "Knock Louder," with folky guitars meeting heavy snares and yodeling backing vocals. It's a song with a timeless composition placed in a completely modern structure. The album opener, "Beautiful Dream," is reprised midway through the album, lending some weight to the chorus, "It was a beautiful dream/It lasted all of the evening," and the bittersweet abandonment of once-hopeful loves and youthful ambitions. The first single, "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On the Dancefloor)" is about as clever as you can imagine with such a title. The band gets quieter on tracks such as "I Can't Help It" and "A Haunting," but they go full-blown psychedelic on "Mesopotamia" and "Dark Water." "Don't Tell Me" stands out as a hooky pop throwdown, glitchy and fun with heavy doses of broken-hearted suspicion.
Have Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. passed one of pop music's biggest tests? Probably. There aren't a lot of low points on The Speed of Things, and the album carries over the lighthearted charm of their first LP while sticking to its own thematic frame of dreaminess and letting go. There are delicate melodies backed by heavy drum-laden beats and vocal harmonies painting cheery portraits of sunny days and wistful happenings. It takes a few steps forward, undoubtedly, but sticks to the formula—because this formula still works. (www.daleearnhardtjrjr.com)
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10