Spun: Dredg

Catch Without Arms, the latest album from Dredg, is brimming with bombast and grandeur, every song a would-be epic drawing as much from U2 as At the Drive-In. Guitars chime and drums pummel, always driving towards the inevitable catharsis. Gavin Hayes uses a poster-boy smooth croon to sing about the pressures of selling out, drinking too much, and being melodramatic in a way bound to resonate with junior and senior high students continent-wide.

It’s hard to fault the musicianship. Dredg are adept at crafting hooks while maintaining the staple start-stop rhythms and atmospheric textures of the art-rock/emo scenes, and the playing is essentially flawless. The trouble is mostly in the production; everything feels too clean and too safe. There’s nothing wrong with adding a little sheen to make an album accessible, but Catch Without Arms is screaming out for some element of danger, a rough edge or two to latch onto.

The album’s other major flaw lies in its at best bland and at worst excruciatingly amateurish lyrics. On the title track, Hayes proclaims “It seems unfair, but lately I don’t care / I don’t care about much, I’ve given up trying.” One track later, he’s asking to “Set sail on a ship made from trust.” He’s reaching for grand poetic imagery and catching the worst entries in your little brother’s diary instead.

Dredg are probably going to help loads of teenagers get through their first heartbreaks. The tracks struggle to be epic in the same way those teenagers struggle to make every little misstep into a grand tragedy, and quite frankly there’s a lot worse music for an angst fix. Once the melodrama disappears, the only thing left is a lot of polish trying really hard to be important.

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