Dot Dash – “Madman in the Rain” 

The grandiose (and somewhat tacky) album title, “Madman in the Rain,” has created a mild but persistent saccharine taste in my mouth. 

It is a kind of middle-of-the-road sensation that cannot move past its own identity crisis – because the music on said album lacks any conviction and does not take risks. 

Released on the Canadian indie label, The Beautiful Music, Madman in the Rain is Dot Dash’s seventh album. The band are based in Washington D.C, and the members are Terry Banks on vocals and guitar, Hunter Bennett on bass and Danny Ingram on drums.  

The album was recorded at New York City’s Renegade Studios and produced by Grammy-winning Geoff Sanoff. 

The musicianship is impressive and the band is extremely tight, but the songs are an underwhelming pastiche of various bands that have come before and who have done it better.

According to a Washington Post review, Dot Dash are a “…a retro cocktail that recalls the yearning indie-pop of Sarah Records; the ’80s neo-Byrds jangle of R.E.M., Orange Juice and other seminal college radio artists, and tight, throbbing basslines and slashing guitars that evoke the Jam and the Clash…”

I would be hard-pressed to compare this album to anything that the Clash or The Jam have ever done. There are some 60s jangly guitars, appropriately equipped with the wistful and aloof attitude of Zombies-psychedelia, while dressed to the nines in British-rainy-nostalgia.

But the Clash and The Jam? These are different animals altogether. Nowhere on Madman in the Rain do I hear the furtive anger of the Jam or the cryptic-Marxist wordplay of Joe Strummer. 

You’ve got the mind of a criminal 

And the conscience of a saint

You know I can’t predict the weather

But I think it looks like rain – Animal Stone

While I think a minimalist approach can work with lyrics – sometimes beautifully – this stanza lacks a depth/layer that doesn’t exactly unfold and tell us more. What image is this supposed to paint? On the surface, yeah, it sounds poetic, but it is also disjointed in its abrupt turn halfway through.

The title track does well to slightly antagonize the sleepy  songwriting sensibilities locked away behind heavy walls of British history – a style (perfected by The Kinks) was quaint in ways but usually heavy juxtaposed by social and political conscious writing; bands who sprung out of the deep shadow of Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher’s unapologetic and racist economics. 

“Madman in the Rain” as a song title does paint a curious picture of the underdog or the victim of an increasingly unforgiving hyper-active capitalist society, where all emotion has been eradicated, and the creative thinker is left wondering (in the rain) what the hell happened to their purpose. 

I’m not going to assume I know what they intended with this and with their other songs, but it would have been striking to see more connections drawn between this character and his/her/their outside world and to the other tracks on the album. 

Instead, we get an emphatic indifference that can only be matched by the mundane landscape rock n’ roll listeners are trying to escape in the first place. “The weather’s getting wild/the streets are a mess/the light’s gone out of the sky/storm’s coming, I guess.” 

I suppose what I’m saying is, as a fan of great songwriting, I want specifics in writing – I want the writer to convince the listener that only they can say what they are saying.

“Airwaves” has got a great Peter Hook-style bassline towards the end; “Saints/Pharaohs” sounds too much like The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,”; “Dead Gone” has got an early-2000’s indie vibe thing, showcasing Dot Dash’s ability to arrange a well-crafted song, but the chorus didn’t take me to its potential peak.

Favorite song for me is “Wokeupdreaming” hands-down. The lyrics sound more personal, more original and written with more honesty.

I’m not afraid of dying,

But I’m afraid of being dead

I throw the curtains back in the morning

And at night I stay in bed.

Their style of lyric writing worked really well this particular track, which called for this exact kind of slight nursery-rhyme simplicity.

I would be curious to know how much control their indie label has on the band, if any, and if the band are attempting to write for a very specific audience. Unfortunately, they have failed to convince me that this was an album they wanted to make.

-Drew Wardle

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