Familiar Faces Forge A New Sound
It’s always an adventure for two bands to work together, especially if they aren’t matched up from a genre standpoint. Dreamcar are one such adventure, as AFI frontman Davey Havok joins forces with the rhythm section from No Doubt — in other words, everyone not named Gwen Stefani. It’s an interesting pairing. No Doubt rose to fame due to their eclectic alternative rock sound that borrowed from ska, funk and even reggae music, while Havok preferred blistering punk before morphing into a makeup-clad, tattooed emo idol in the vein of Gerard Way or Billie Joe Armstrong (he even replaced the latter as St. Jimmy in the Broadway version of American Idiot).
The supergroup’s debut album, the self-titled Dreamcar, sounds nothing like either band’s past work. Instead of distortion — or horns — Dreamcar opt for a sleek 1980s new wave sound with textured synths, dance hall drums and reverb-soaked, clean guitar tones. Havok’s singing is just as distinct as it’s always been, but he wisely ditches his well-known primal screams in favor of poppy melodies.
The songs themselves are fun and catchy. The lead single, “Kill For Candy,” finds Havok channeling his best Billy Idol impression during the verses before a bright, sunny chorus hits. Meanwhile, “Born to Lie” holds the album’s most singable hook. Perhaps, the most fun moment occurs on the funky shuffle “All the Dead Girls,” which finds Havok musing, “All the dead girls love me, so why can’t you?”
However, Havok is not the only member of the band who demands listeners’ attention; the surrounding crew offer equally strong performances. Adrian Young’s energetic drumming keeps all the tracks driving, no matter how relaxed they may otherwise feel. Tom Dumont’s guitar work is slick and textured, his gleaming lines fitting in nicely with the synths. And bassist Tony Kanal adds his own funky flourishes. Naturally, since the trio have been playing together for over 25 years, their groove is airtight.
The most surprising element of this album isn’t even the sound the members created: it’s how naturally the two sides converge. This isn’t just No Doubt with a different singer; instead the members of Dreamcar all work together to build a new sound from scratch. And it’s a pretty darn good one.