Back when I discovered dredg and started exploring their sound, they quickly became one of my favourite bands. When I finished El Cielo I was sure I had top 5 band ever material at my hands. But that didn't happen, sadly. They went from being a band that released incredible albums to one that released something so bad that a lot of the fans believe it was a "troll album". What happened?
Leitmotif and El Cielo are fantastic. As far as this kind of music goes (art rock or w/e it's called) it's difficult to get any better. El Cielo especially is a 10/10. Everything about it is top notch.
Their 3rd album is Catch Without Arms, and I think it's the most important album to analyze as far as this topic goes. Catch without arms is very solid, and it contains what I personally believe to be THE best dredg song, Sang Real. But there is something very annoying about it, and it's that 30 second laughing sounds at the end of the track. What the fuck is even that supposed to do? Why is it there, dredg? It's so useless and annoying.
And then there's Spitshine. It is probably my least favourite dredg song, ever. The chorus makes me want to kill something and it's so overproduced, it's only good for one listen, then it gets incredibly tedious. Kind of a shame cause the themes/lyrics are good. I VERY rarely skip tracks when listening to full albums, but I do it for Spitshine. I just can't bear listening to it.
See, the problem is, Zebraskin is in the same album. It's very different than the typical dredg song, it's very catchy and has a hook that goes "A couple of drinks mid-day mid-day mid-day / Haven't felt this way this way since yesterday". But it's not a bad song! Zebraskin proves that dredg CAN do catchy, even if it won't be their best. Spitshine is just shit. The theme of Catch Without Arms is positives and negatives, contrast, opposites, etc. The song themselves reflect this. And I think it reflects how the band itself was feeling about their music at that point. They were glad of their accomplishments but craved recognition. They were frustrated that their extremely creative and evocative work was being ignored in favor of shallow music, they thought their music needed to change direction, but they didn't know where to go.
Then there's the 4th album. I delayed listening it for a whole year, because I knew I wouldn't like it. I had read what it was based on and some of the lyrics, and I had realized it was not for me. But that's personal and doesn't mean I can't enjoy the music, right? Wrong. I've listened to Pariah a couple of times and it just... disappoints me every time. I am an absolute sucker for concept albums and albums with a message and narrative, but dredg went too far with The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion. Whenever I listen to it, I feel like Gavin first wrote the lyrics and then they tried to make some fitting music for it, it just sounds so artificial and disconnected. Whereas in their previous albums the music and words feel so intertwined and naturally complement each other. There are two songs I like a lot in the album though, Ireland and Quotes, and some decent ones, but as a whole, I felt Pariah was a huge failure. But it didn't bother me that much because I knew it was not for me.
Then came Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy. Ummmm.. I don't know what to say, really. I am all for bands evolving their sound and exploring new musical ground, but chuckles is just shit. It's worthless musically. Listening to The Tent makes me cringe IRL, no kidding. It is a collaboration with Dan the Automator. With no actual drumming, and the band members recorded their pieces separately and sent them via email. It is abysmal. Have you seen the music video for Upon Returning? It is absurd, but not the good kind of absurd, the "what the fuck is this and why is it a thing" kind of absurd accompanied by shitty music.
So sing about love
Sing about lust
So they will care
It's the same difference
That's what happens when you play catch without arms
It's what sets, sets, sets us apart
That's what happens when you compromise your art
It's what sets, sets, sets us apart" - lyrics from Catch Without Arms.
You know Gavin, I wish you sang about love. I wish you compromised your art. I actually wish you went back making the nu-metal you were making at the beginning of the band's conception. It would be far better than insulting your fanbase with Chuckles. Now they don't even take you seriously. I don't like Pariah but I respect it. But Chuckles is inexcusable.
To re-cap, dredg got too self-conscious. Too scared too sell out or be "commercial", too pretentious for even art rock pretentiousness. Now they're a parody of themselves, still making music that doesn't sell, but now it isn't even good music anymore. I am not one to consider bands "done", but I don't see dredg coming out of this hole they've dug for themselves. Which is a shame because they used to make some of the best music I've ever listened to.
And then there's this, which is from an interview they did in Turkey:
"It took a long time for us to learn that people like our old records more that the new ones. If we had heard these kind of comments sooner, we would've paid attention. Nobody cares in the US. It took 7 seven years for them to tell us that they liked El Cielo. So it can be difficult to understand our change in music, but it's logical for us to try something new because we thought people didn't like our previous work. The only song that people in USA and Germany said they liked was Bug Eyes. We didn't know so we always tried something new."
Really dredg, REALLY? Even if it was the 60's that would not be a good excuse, and in these days of social media and blazing fast information spread that is completely unacceptable. You're bullshitting and you know it. If you wanted to hear fan feedback, you could. Even something as simple as checking last.fm could work, people are discussing bands on their pages all the time. There is no shame in doing that, *shels have said they used last.fm to see what people think of the music, you could do it too (check *shels out if you're reading this by the way, amazing band!). Or even Facebook. I'm curious to see what you will do now that you know people liked your old stuff better, but I am not hopeful at all. As far as I care, Chuckles never existed. You have to basically start from 0 to prove yourself. Until then dredg is dead to me, RIP dredg.