Dreamers of the Ghetto: Playing on Prefix

Playing on Prefix is a feature on KCRW’s Music Blog in which writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers each week:

Unfortunately, most attempts to describe Dreamers of the Ghetto’s sound makes the band seem like they’re going to be atrocious. A combination of John Mellencamp and U2! Kind of like an 80s version of Arcade Fire, but not overtly sad about the number of Wal-Marts in the world and with a lead singer who has a completely arena rock voice!

Although these are all actually sort-of accurate comparisons, the band’s sound isn’t an oil-and-water mishmash of disparate influences. Trust and believe — they’re a lot better than the sum of these parts.

Even though “Enemy/Lover” is the band’s first full-length album, DotG already seem poised to eventually crossover into mass-appeal territory, Arcade Fire-style. They possess the latter’s affinity for melodrama — but also their innate ability to skirt the lines between accessibility and esoterica. It’s an important skill to master for any small band with their eyes on the prize.

Any lo-fi aficionado taking “Enemy/Lover” for a spin is probably going to run into the same issue I did: you’re so used to hearing hoarse, husky voices like Luke Jones’ moaning about college boy-problems over compressed power chords, so you feel like you maybe shouldn’t enjoy the album as much as you do. True, DotG’s songs are every bit as relentlessly bombastic as radio-ready modern rock — but instead the band traffics in thickly-layered synthesizers and sweeping choruses that populate every song on the album. “Enemy/Lover” may not offer much in the way of sonic variety, but it’s uniformly solid.

State of A Dream” has been tapped as the album’s single, but the lyrically/sonically similar “Connection” bests it in every way. While “State of A Dream” jerks and clunks even on the chorus, “Connection” offers a more elegant touch. Like fellow mainstream/indie crossovers The National, “Connection” showcases DotG’s ability to use accomplished vocals and precise, excellent percussion to breathe life into spare instrumentation. Music supervisors looking to soundtrack a girl-I’m-still-missing-you scene, you’re welcome on behalf of the band.

Dreamers Of The Ghetto – Connection by Temporary Residence Ltd

“Garage band” is so often used to describe ramshackle, lo-fi, guitar-centric music that we often forget that the term has another meaning. There are other sorts of garage bands out there, standing atop pawn store amps, belting into cheap mics, pretending they’re playing to an enormous, sold-to-capacity venue. That’s the kind of garage band DotG sounds like, and though they haven’t yet “hit the big time,” they’re already exceedingly accomplished at striking the balance between spectacle and intimacy, between mainstream appeal and creative street cred. Slow burn come-on “Night Hawks” steps over those boundaries expertly; it’s a little 70s sleaze, a little 90s Britpop.

Night Hawks by soozeecue

Over the past few years, the majority of bands lumped under the “indie rock” category keep recycling the same tropes: making music with muted tones, blurry guitars, obscured or unassuming vocals, more focused on fading to the background rather than stomping into the spotlight. This makes it all the more refreshing to hear a band like DotG put out an album that sounds so nakedly ambitious and unabashedly big. This is a band with enormous potential to please both conventional and fringe musical palates. Keep one eye trained on Tumblr for the surely-forthcoming “Who is Dreamers of the Ghetto?”.

— Susannah Young