Some bands have one album in their discography that will simply never be bettered and will always slightly overshadow all subsequent releases. The Dodos are one of those bands. After debuting with the pretty solid Beware Of The Maniacs, the duo came to most people’s attention with second album Visiter, an hour long indie folk odyssey, characterised by Meric Long’s intricate yet sometimes ramshackle finger picking and honey-like voice accompanied by Logan Kroeber’s frantic percussion, performed as if by a man with at least 3 arms. Wonderfully melodic, occasionally chaotic, it was the overlooked gem of 2008. They followed it up just over a year later with Time To Die, an enjoyable album but one that felt like a sanitised Visiter, one with all the pleasingly rough edges rounded off and smoothed over to its detriment, and the next two records, No Color and Carrier continued largely down this same likable yet forgettable path.
Carrier did attempt to change formula slightly with Long’s increased use of electric rather than acoustic guitar and occasional loops, and now, having been recorded immediately after that album’s completion, Individ takes this progression a bit further in parts – ‘Precipitation’ opens the album in a haze of guitar effect drones while ‘The Tide’ has a nicely disorientating tremolo effect running throughout – though otherwise it’s largely business as usual again. The album has been touted as a return to the writing style of Visiter, “relying heavily on the movement that occurs between just two instruments, guitar and drums” according to Long. The comparison doesn’t feel entirely reflected in the actual sound of the finished album, as it still lacks that spontaneous live feel, although there are still some very good moments on offer. Upbeat lead single ‘Competition’ is the catchiest they’ve sounded in quite some time, while the laid back ‘Bastard’ comes straight from the Stephen Malkmus school of nonchalance, Long casually declaring “I’m no longer your bastard” with the air of someone who has well and truly moved on from whatever past torture he may have endured.
It feels unfair to keep comparing Individ to their best work 7 years on, but while it’s becoming more and more apparent that they’ll probably never manage to recapture its charm, this album is probably the most interesting they’ve been since, or at least since Time To Die. If you’re a fan of Visiter who hasn’t paid much attention to their recent work, this album in all honesty still isn’t really an essential purchase, but it’s more than worth giving 38 minutes of your time to at least. Cathal McBride
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