UK band Dignan Porch is back for a second album with a full band to back up Joe Walsh and a knack for balance and restraint. The album Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen has 90s garage rock throw-back melodic hooks without being full-swing pop, channeling a lo-fi quality without submerging the melodies. Dramatic dynamics are scarce but the varying tempos still keep things engaging with danceable beats.
In the space between extremes is a familiar, post-punk soundscape. More than a handful songs on Nothing Bad are almost calm enough to lull you to sleep, but are a little too catchy to keep you there. But if you close your eyes, the color blots under your eyelids would match up the splash of psychedelic flair that cocoons each song in a mystical tone. On the aptly titled “Interlude,” Long synth passages come armed with a range of orchestral to ufo-like effects.
And yet, there’s a delicacy in the melodies that always shines through. It’s as though a lost, young boy was playing these same songs on an abandoned playground. Joe Walsh’s voice isn’t particularly emotive on this album, quietly chanting through what could be highly energized punk-pop anthems. But this disengaged tone strikes at least a couple heart strings.
The fragile layering of catchy tunes under lo-fi fuzz makes the album’s title sadly seem more like whimsical hope rather than true positivism. Dignan Porch does not scream, rather they gently reminisce through their lyrics: “all those things you used to tell me to do/ and I never wanted to/now I do them without thinking/cause they remind me of you” muses Walsh on “Sixteen Hits”. “Like the burning sun/she landed on my skin/and I couldn’t stand it” goes “She Is Landing”. The unassuming tone is only strengthened by song titles like “Picking up Dust,” “Sad Shape,” “Darkness,” “Never” and “You Win, You Win,” each painting images of resignation.
The band doesn’t resign early from Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen. It’s a long album and, with the help of the reel-to-reel, mostly live-recorded sound, listening to it can feel like wading through a peaceful swamp to find sunshine. It might take a couple full listens to swing into the band’s mindset, but what first seems annoyingly repetitive gradually becomes addicting. Dignan Porch slashes through the drone with rhythmic gems like “Sixteen Hits,” with its upbeat tempo and memorable melody. The conjoined pair “TV Shows” and “Cancelled TV Shows” are toned-down and rowdy versions of the same idea. These songs showcase the band’s thoughtful presentation and burst out of the psychedelic bubble the rest of the album resides in, shouting energetic, teen-angst-style couplets like “Question everything you know/the blackness beyond the window /think about what you need/don’t listen to those who disagree.”
The true magic of Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen lies in its brush with the warm, dream pop realm. “Pink Oil” (amusingly reminiscent of Aha’s Take On Me) and “You Win, You Win” share ingredients of meditative mumbling, lazy tunes and layered instrumentation and some of the harmony that the other songs often lack. The wistfulness is personal, as though we are caught in a web of Walsh’s daydreams. In “And Are Now Not,” the breathing and sighing is so present and close that it’s almost another feature of the instrumentation. Although there’s plenty of space psychedelia in the album, the physical space between the music and listeners is disintegrated. The recording allows us to hear something that sounds live and understated, and the melodies are agreeable with their retro familiarity.