Published Jul 12, 2016Dikembe began as a punk-infused emo band with a sneering, youthful earnestness that shone on their 2012 debut full-length, Broad Shoulders (and their weed-and-basketball-inspired Chicago Bowls EP before it). They adopted a more austere tone on their followup, Mediumship, and their third record Hail Something reaffirms that in the pursuit of a more mature sound, the Florida outfit have lamentably sacrificed the palpable fervour that made their early work as hooky and invigorating as it was, even in spite of its own flaws and occasional sloppiness.
On Hail Something, Dikembe wield a grungy '90s emo style with restraint, ably meshing meaty rock sections with fragile, intimate breaks in the pace. Frontman Steven Gray often sounds like he's on the brink of snapping, at times sympathetic and at others unnerving. But it all seems rather half-hearted. The band sound washed out, while Gray sounds downright exhausted. Sadly, Hail Something also suffers greatly from poor production; while many have pulled off the raw, lo-fi sound — genre staples like Texas Is the Reason and Sunny Day Real Estate come to mind — it makes everything here sound flimsy and strained. Even the album's worthiest efforts, like the emotionally taut "All Wrong," the chunky, catchy "Earth Around Me" or the quirky, dissonant "Shelf," are flat and dry when they could have sounded refreshingly dynamic and purposeful.
It's wonderful to watch artists evolve from something that's more or less derivative, yet satisfying, into something that's more complicated, and great. Unfortunately, Dikembe's quest for their own distinctive sound has turned up something regrettably forgettable. However one describes Hail Something, it's probably bound to be mildly positive, if unenthusiastic, and that's a shame considering the band's very evident potential. (Independent)