Asian Man Records
Release date: April 29, 2016
Dowsing has always felt like the underdog band. There's no reason for me to feel like this. They have a vocalist with a much more powerful delivery than many of the genre's reedy pencil-necked nerds, and the instrumentation is similarly beefy and fully realized. There's the more-than-passing similarity to Fireworks, sure (pop-punk math: Fireworks - The Wonder Years = Dowsing), there's the fact that songs sort of settle into that space between midtempo and uptempo, rarely qualifying as "exhilarating" despite all the energy obviously present. They aren't underdogs: they're an established band now who have earned their presence in the scene beyond a passing single or two. But you don't have to be an underdog to underachieve.
Their newest, an ostensibly untitled record that they’re referring to as Okay, is a rounded, fleshed-out version of the upbeat, emotive punk that was always in their wheelhouse. A song like "Dissolve" has absolutely everything going for it: layered vocals primed for sing-alongs, lyrics about being alone and scared, the "dun-dun-dun-DUN" transition from verse to chorus that has been too long absent from pop-punk, bits of Cartel and Taking Back Sunday blended into earnest punk. And when the songs lean Joyce Manor, it feels like the density of their sound could find footing and expression.
Their influences are above reproach; their execution demonstrates a peerless familiarity with the genre. Each and every song feels more full steam ahead than the last. There's a cheering and clapping outro on "Finally Ghost." As a pop-punk apologist, I can't help feeling like something like is overdue, something almost like a pop-punk period piece. But there's an unshakable little-brother thing happening. A sum of their influences. They know the notes to hit, and they hit 'em, but the album feels a bit like a wade at times, the songs falling into similar tempos and riff patterns.
Hear me out: Dowsing is a real good band. This record deserves accolades that I have done a poor job of emphasizing: the vocals are more steady as assured than ever, the melodies are catchy, the guitars are always working to keep things interesting, and the album is paced as carefully as possible with these songs, tucking two and a half minute pop songs in between sub-two minute punky numbers. It's been a long journey from "Gengar, Gengar" to here, and it's worth noting that people who enjoyed the sound before will be overjoyed with this record. If Dowsing wants to shake the little brother feeling, they have the potential. In the meantime, they still have a collection of fist-pumping anthems here, and pop-punk has never really asked for more from its congregants.
Reviewed by Keegan 1340