I bet you weren’t expecting to see this name on the byline. No doubt some, if not most of you have seen the tweets, posts, threads, etc. chronicling the turmoil of The Dangerous Summer between themselves, their fans, and sometimes this very website. And I’ll be honest – even a month ago I wouldn’t have believed I’d be writing the review for the band’s latest release, Golden Record. I’ve always been a fan of the band’s music (War Paint was in heavy rotation during the summer of 2011), but the antics and weird shit that went on turned me off to the band. But sometimes a simple post from the offending party can act as an olive branch and you reevaluate things. Hey man, music mends broken hearts and it can also rebuild bridges.
Some will hurl accusations of flip-flopping; others will mutter, “it’s about time.” Without getting into too much detail, it ultimately comes down to moving on and forgiving, since holding a grudge is never a good look. We’ll keep what’s in the past there and build new relationships hopefully. Besides, I’m spending way too much time on myself (“Just shut up already Beringer and get to the record!”) instead of getting to the point: The Dangerous Summer may have just released its best record.
It’s no secret that AJ Perdomo remains one of the most underrated lyricists in our scene today. People tend to forget how powerful his words are until he’s back with a new batch. On Golden Record, he’s continued the trend of improving his songwriting with release – each word more impactful than the last. They burst through amongst the ever-building first single, “Catholic Girls.” Golden Record still contains some world weariness heard on War Paint but it’s delivered in a much more aggressive tone here. Times have and will continue to be tough, but it’s gonna make us a lot stronger in the end (Innocence is hard to stand by/even with the catholic girls we loved/when they gave it up/life goes on). It’s an opening track that floors you from the start, even returning to some of the in-your-face quality from debut Reach For The Sun; its momentum leading you into the guitar-driven melody of “Sins,” which features one of the best bridges the band has ever written. This is the first album appearance for new lead guitarist Matt Kennedy and he shines throughoutGolden Record, with this track being one of many high points.
Ben Cato also makes his debut as the band’s new drummer and he doesn’t miss a beat in the spot vacated by Tyler Minsberg. His work is the backbone on the harrowing “Drowning,” while his versatility is shown by how subtle he dictates the pace on the album’s poppiest track, “Into The Comfort.” The drumming has also been key on previous releases and it doesn’t falter all during Golden Record’s ten tracks – flowing seamlessly with rhythm guitarist Cody Payne and Perdomo’s buoyant bass lines. Everyone in the band is on the same brainwave here, which is never more apparent than on the crushing “Knives.” Featuring a riff that cuts like the title, it’s a pulverizing number that may be the heaviest song the band has ever written (it’s the best song Manchester Orchestra never wrote, to steal a line from my colleague, Jason Tate). Perdomo puts incredible strain on his voice here, slowing up only a bit to let the song unleash its final crushing blow.
I’ve never doubted the band’s ability to write fast and catchy songs – it’s only been when they’d slow it down on past albums they’d lose me. That’s not to say The Dangerous Summer has never put out a good or great mid-tempo song – it’s just most of the time those songs kill the momentum on previous albums. Maybe that’s just saying something about me as a listener, but it just wasn’t firing on all cylinders for me until I heard “Miles Apart.” Perhaps it’s the contrast of Perdomo’s urgent vocals against the breezy composition, but this is one song I’m looking forward to singing along to during those late-night highway drives.
There will always be people mentioning that a lot of The Dangerous Summer’s songs are too alike and same-y at times (hell, I’m one of those people), and songs like “Honesty” and “I’m So Pathetic” fall into that trap, even though I particularly enjoy the latter. But for the most part, the nuances throughout help differentiate the majority of tracks (the slight hints of keys on the fantastic “We Will Wait In The Fog,” the aforementioned drumming on “Drowning”). The winning ingredient on Golden Record, however, is Perdomo’s always-relatable lyrics. He’s rarely in the conversation with AP.net favorites such as Dan Campbell or Andy Hull, even though he deserves to be. He reflects on past mistakes or loves while never denouncing the future. Everything is summed up best on closer “Anchor” when he shouts, I’m not scared to die for all the promises I’ve made or didn’t, finishing Golden Record with something that’ll undoubtedly resonate and stick with listeners.
The album’s name is inspired by The Voyager Golden Records that were sent into space sometime during the 1970’s. The records included music and images from Earth in hopes that one day they’d be seized by extraterrestrial life – the idea being that we were sending the very best up there for extraterrestrial life to study and remember. And that’s what The Dangerous Summer has attempted and accomplished with Golden Record. This is a band that has crafted its sound to near-perfection, featuring some of the very best lyrics, melodies, and compositions of this pop-rock genre. Nothing is guaranteed in life – this could be the last record we ever get from the quartet. Or this could be the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the book of The Dangerous Summer. But regardless of whatever lies ahead in the future unknown, at least we know that AJ Perdomo, Cody Payne, Matt Kennedy, and Ben Cato gave us their very best shot by releasing the definitive Dangerous Summer record.