Old Dogs Must Learn New Tricks
Dexter Romweber of Flat Duo Jets helped to pioneer the American guitar-and-drums garage band style that came to prominence and notoriety within the alternative rock and garage-punk genres. While his music, released through a number of different outfits like The Kamikazees and Chicken Wire Gang, has always had the edgy, stripped-down sound that would later characterize the sound of groups like the White Stripes and the Black Keys, his own music has always retained a more overt Americana influence.
This garage-rockabilly-blues-punk fusion comes through on Romweber’s newest release, Images 13, recorded with Romweber’s older sister Sam of the post-punk band Let’s Active, under the name Dex Romweber Duo. Images 13 fluctuates between theatric, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins-esque garage bangers and Cash-inspired crooning about love and loss. The instrumentation, however, remains similar throughout, featuring mainly electric guitar and drums by the musically-experienced siblings.
While it’s important to acknowledge the wide scope of Romweber’s influence on current independent and alternative rock, it can be said that Images 13 falls short of achieving anything particularly memorable. Perhaps it’s because he helped in the genre’s establishment, but the Romwebers’ blues-rock sounds a bit bland, not to mention it’s been done much better within recent years by newer groups. Additionally, Dex Romweber’s lyrics don’t resonate, and on Images 13 they’re often cliché. This makes listening to the album a bit arduous, and it gives little satisfaction to the listener.
It’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks, but one can’t help but feel that’s exactly what Dex Romweber needs to achieve in order to release an album with success equal to his influence. The genre he helped bring to the masses seems to have left him underground, doing the same thing he did twenty years ago. Images 13 is an example of how genre innovators must adapt to changing times if they want to maintain any sort of relevancy.