April 29, 2020 Dramarama – COLOR TV (Album Review)
What is one of the most adored Alternative Rock songs of all-time? A list that would probably be quite long, if you are adding Dramarama’s “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You)” to it, you would be on the right track. Still one of the most played songs in Alternative radio history, it was featured predominately in 1988’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, covered by everyone from Buckcherry to Chester Bennington’s first band Grey Daze, and curiously enough, Ellen DeGeneres has called it a personal favorite.
A song with a life of its own, in many ways it has defined Dramarama, however, the band has released plenty more quality music before and after the single’s success. Originally forming in New Jersey back in 1982, the band has released eight studio albums, and minus a near decade gap of silence, continue on strong in 2020. They have been touring as a headliner, featured on the Lost 80’s Live bill, but still, have not released a new album since 2005’s Everybody Dies. Fifteen years without new music, the time has come for Dramarama’s return with their brand new album COLOR TV.
Due out on Friday, May 1st, 2020 via Pasadena Records, according to Lead Singer/Songwriter John Easdale, new music had been in the works for sometime. In fact, when asked about new music in a 2018 interview, he told Cryptic Rock, “We have some stuff that is ready to go. I believe, if we are lucky and all things run smoothly, we can hope to see some new music before the end of the year. In the past, one thing or another has prevented that from happening. I’m hoping before the end of the year there is some new music to listen to. Fingers crossed, not only will we not be an old band with old music, we will be an old band with new music.”
Well, it has been near two years since that statement, but that is alright, because the time has finally arrived. Featuring twelve songs, ten of which were originals written by Easdale over an extensive period of time, it is very much everything you would expect from Dramarama and more. That in mind, if you are someone who is a bit foggy on who Dramarama is, if you dig bands like The Replacements or early Goo Goo Dolls stuff, you are in the right place. However, if you know nothing about either of those too, then you are on your own. Anyway, Easdale has always had a unique Punk Rock approach to singing, and to boot, he is also quite a unique lyricist. Honest in his words, he is also a master of free association, and thankfully, has not lost his touch with the songs that make up COLOR TV.
Easdale, joined by Mark Englert (lead, rhythm guitar), Peter Wood (lead, rhythm guitar), Mike Davis (bass), along with Tony Snow (drums) fire up the tube with the upbeat “Beneath The Zenith,” quickly tossing you into a world of lost memories. Which brings us to the sociopolitical lead single “Up To Here,” a striking anthem about the state of humanity in 2020. With potent lyrics such as, “If the only thing we have to fear is fear, I’m surprised we haven’t had it up to here,” Easdale taps directly into the problems that plague mainstream society.
From this point the album lands nicely after taking you up high with “Up To Here” – first with the somber, yet beautiful “The Cassette,” followed by the Blues, pain ridden “Swamp Song,” and then the heavily guitar-driven “It’s Only Money.” All strong pieces that tell their own story, it continues with rockers such “What’s Your Sign” and “Everyday,” as well as the retro-vibed “Hold Me Tight,” showcasing an even more vulnerable side to Easdale’s voice.
A sea of emotions all the way through, perhaps the most heart-wrenching track of the bunch comes in the form of “The Only Thing (Stupid/Brilliant),” vividly painting images of regret, as well as the enchanting downbeat “You, You, You.” Concluding the original tunes, sprinkled in the middle, is a cool cover of Bob Dylan’s “Abandoned Love,” before Elliot Smith’s “Half Right” bookends it all, fitting the album’s theme like a glove.
Overall COLOR TV is an album of mixed emotions. Much like the human spirit, it is not a straight line of feelings; it is up, down, left, and right. At times loud and upbeat, but others sobering, it is drenched with sincerity that draws you in closely. A worthy return from a damn cool band, Cryptic Rock gives Dramarama’s COLOR TV 4 out of 5 stars.