We’re All Gonna Die
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
On the instant-classic title track of Dawes’ last album, lead singer Taylor Goldsmith wished for a long-lost friend what all great music fans truly desire: “May all your favorite bands stay together.” On their newest release, We’re All Gonna Die, the band changes tactics drastically enough that it might risk alienating some narrow-minded supporters. But it also should ensure that the doldrums stay away and that Dawes’ loyal fans don’t have to contemplate life without them.
Known for Goldsmith’s intricate, empathetic lyrics, Dawes makes a concerted effort to rev up the energy level and vary their approach on the new disc. For perhaps the first time in the band’s catalog, the rhythms of bassist Wylie Gelber and drummer Griffin Goldsmith demand just as much attention as the words and tunes. Album-opener “One Of Us” is danceable and muscular, while lead single “When The Tequila Runs Out” dabbles in funk rock.
Taylor Goldsmith is a lyricist who sees the forest, the trees, and the contours of every leaf, and his wordy meditations on life sometimes run counter to the band’s efforts to diversify their sound; the breezy reggae of “Picture Of A Man” and the Latin lilt of “Less Than Five Miles Away” are uneasy fits. But the band rocks more convincingly here than they ever have before, with the sassy and sarcastic “One Of Us” and the divorce play-by-play “Roll With The Punches” delivering both insight and impact.
Some of the left-field moves turn out to be surprisingly fruitful. Case in point: the melodically rich “For No Good Reason,” with its circus-like atmosphere and Harrisonian slide guitar. And it wouldn’t be a Dawes album without heartfelt, late-night balladry, which is where the lovely “Roll Tide” enters the picture. Since their music so effortlessly recalls the best of Jackson Browne, consider We’re All Gonna Die to be Dawes’ version of Browne’s 80’s curve ball Lawyers In Love, a stylistic detour with high points that outweigh the misfires.