American Football, Asleep The Cats Will Find Me, Brand New, Dowsing, emo, Empire, Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate), Fall Out Boy, fourth-wave emo, I Don't Even Care Anymore, Jimmy Eat World, low self-esteem, Midwest emo revival, Midwestern United States, Musical ensemble, Promise Ring, Rites Of Spring, self-deprecation, Tables For Glasses, The Beach Boys, The Promise Ring, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, The World Is AAnd I Am No Beautiful Place, Today
While a band like Dowsing might not find themselves at the forefront of fourth-wave emo (which, for those not aware emo came in waves, here’s a helpful guide: Rites Of Spring -> The Promise Ring -> Fall Out Boy -> The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, et. al.) due to lack of self-serious post-rock ambition, they are self-aware enough to display a charm and at least more-than-competent musicality enough to make for both a pleasant listen and a good approximation of what you can expect from the average Midwest emo revival band. If they don’t quite achieve the great standing within the movement that the likes of Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) have, they can at least stand out on their own as loveable underdogs. And really, what’s more emo than that?
The album opens with “If I Fall Asleep The Cats Will Find Me,” which is significantly less upbeat than the rest of the album, reminiscent of Jimmy Eat World’s “Tables For Glasses” with its twinkling guitars, sparse rhythm section, and repetitive, wistful vocals. And in a genre that is sometimes criticized for sounding too much like bands that broke up 15 years ago, this track is probably the strongest on the album because what the band does take from the bands that influenced them, they get it so right here. However, it’s really kind of an oddity in their catalogue – not all their songs are as dark and quiet, and the ones that are don’t have the same depth this one does. Not that the rest of the album is a pass. The first vinyl side, with the exception of the opener, is the upbeat side, whereas side B is a bit more subdued, like The Beach Boys’ ‘Today!’ Only one of the tracks are longer than 3 minutes, and while one can end up wishing for a little bit more out of songs like the title track, which seemed like it was really just getting going when it ended, in the end Dowsing operates most efficiently at its most punctual and concise. They’re not a band prone to big, long statements. From the lyrics one gets the sense that they’re an immediate emotional reaction, rather than the result of prolonged introspection. They make frequent use of repetition, making statements like “I’ve just become disgusted with how I’ve been” from “Ferret Feelings) into slogans for the self-deprecating, not getting bogged down in philosophy. “No Offense To The Fun” starts off with muted guitar and hushed, spitting vocals, making me wonder just how separated fourth-wave really is from third-wave; until the rest of the band joins in, the song feels like it could have been an outtake from ‘Deja Entendu.’ The closer, “Nothing To Give,” the longest track, coming in at 4 minutes, encapsulates everything the band is about. It has some charming keyboard riffs, jangling guitar, and is separated into a brooding, quiet half and a more rocking half. The first half has more musical depth, but the lyrics seem misguided, which is where the practice of not filtering the thoughts that went into the song becomes troublesome. The second half sees the band really working together as a cohesive unit, but it lacks the emotional connection that was made with the more brooding sections of the album. Overall it’s good, but lacking a few things that would make it great.
The title of the album is fitting, as it shows the band’s penchant for glorifying low self-esteem, but it also describes where they get one of their greatest strengths from. They abandon pretension in favor of unflinching honesty, which makes Dowsing what they are, and while the approach has its flaws, with some refinement the band could make their signature format into something truly memorable.
Recommended Tracks: If I Fall Asleep The Cats Will Find Me, I Don’t Even Care Anymore, Nothing To Give