The Dust Coda: ‘Loco Paradise’

July Album of the Month

(5/5)

How does this compare to the previous two Dust Coda albums? This is probably the question every Dust Coda fan will ask in the weeks ahead – but it’s possibly also the wrong question. The achievement of ‘Loco Paradise’ is it delivers the proof point on quality and consistency – The Dust Coda have now delivered a trilogy of three supremely crafted albums. There is a saying that most bands have one great album in them, so to sustain a trilogy is a rare feat – and I struggle to think of a rock band that have done this quite so well in recent years.

What does mark this new album out is it feels more assured. Two albums in, the band members are clearly comfortable with who they are – and this delivers an authentic truth to the music you will hear on this fine album. They’re not trying to over-impress, they don’t have a producer trying to make them sound like a band they can’t be on stage. This band went into the studio knowing what their sound is, knowing their strengths and knowing how to work together. That assuredness is what makes the songs shine. The first two albums were big pushes to get The Dust Coda noticed and established. With album three, the band are just enjoying what they do and it gives the music an immediacy, a life and a sense of fun – which makes ‘Loco Paradise’ more than a bit special.

Big credit also to the band’s label, Earache Records. Masters at crashing bands into the charts – and, with it, turning artist dreams into realities – they clearly trust the talent of the band they signed and give them the freedom to do their thing. The label isn’t changing the band, they’re giving them the platform and the support to be the best they can be – and that is what you hear on ‘Loco Paradise’ from the count-in to the opening track to the final bars of the finale.

For my last Album of the Month review for the band with ‘Mojo,’ I referred to The Dust Coda as the ‘flag carriers of modern rock.’ That was a line from a super fun backstage interview I did with the band at the Earache NWORNR show, weeks before Covid changed the world. It was a line I wanted to add into the album review I did a year later. In truth though, The Dust Coda aren’t modern rock. Yes, they are new and ambitious but their oeuvre is unquestionably classic rock – and this I think is where ‘Loco Paradise’ really delivers a statement. The Dust Coda’s point of difference to many of their peers within the classic space is the band deliver what they do with such benchmark class. With an older rock audience demographic loving the nostalgia of their classic rock teenage years, it’s all too easy for young bands to put out classic rock songs that sound like the good ol’ days, but it is actually very difficult to be anything other than a pastiche. This is where the Dust Coda really stand out – they do add something to the genre. This is because they’re just focused on writing great songs, gorgeously clean songs, that take you on a journey.  The quality of playing across the band and the union in their shared chemistry results in music that hits you as fresh, alive, powerful and exciting. There’s references to the classic genre of course – and why not – but somehow The Dust Coda make classic rock relevant and contemporary again. And there aren’t many that really do that.

From start to finish, this album is totally authentic. John and Adam created the original ideas on acoustic guitars in their living rooms. When the band had a clear sense on the songs, they went into Chapel Studios and smashed them out in a week. One song was done in a single take and was not edited. The result is you feel you are in the room with the band for this record. In the age where producers can create wonderful songs in the edit – and when AI poses a threat to whether we even need people writing music at all – The Dust Coda remind us all that there is no substitute for the art of recorded music that lives and breathes as live performance. This record is how the guys sound on stage. It’s a real piece of music.

‘Road to Hell’ opens the album with urgency, punch and intensity. From the off, there’s a clear sense the band is the sum of the four parts – everyone brings something to the party – great vocal, infectious riffs, assured bass and real energy on the skins. Like ‘Let Me Go,’ this is a band that has mastered the art of crafting radio bangers – but doing so on their terms.  Recorded late at night, ‘Road to Hell’ captures the excitement of the music-making and the comradery of the four musicians working together.

‘Fairweather Love’ for me is a song about the vocal. The range and the high notes are quite something and this is arguably the best TDC album for vocal performances, some of which are quite astonishing.

‘Love Sick’ is a song for summer. A nice southern vibe – the video for the single captured brilliantly the essence of the music. A song to be enjoyed with a drink after a long day as the sun sets, ‘Love Sick’ is a song with a beautiful heart. In terms of structure, it reminded me of rockshow favourite ‘Dream Alight’ – both songs start with control, build nicely and have a thumping finale. 

‘Call Out The Dogs’ is really fun, a song with the catchiest choruses on the album. A simple song but it really works. The bass playing is super cool but the strength throughout this album is you can hear everyone’s parts really clearly – and yet it’s the union between them that makes the music work. A classic call-and-response song, I think this will become a festival favourite.

Four songs in, we’ve had the singles – or the shorter, catchy songs that you need to sell an album. They’re all great, but what comes next is even better – the band really pushing the light and shade and not confined to shorter tracks. Very hard to pick a favourite from what follows, it’s a body of work to enjoy as a whole.

‘Come The Night’ has, in its heart, a dedication to Taylor Hawkins and his influence on the band. It’s sometimes hard to do a tribute well, but again the execution from the band is classy and done with sensitivity. The lyrics are touching, Scott’s delivery is great, Adam’s guitar is powerful – the band really play on each other’s strengths to create a wonderfully fresh and rounded song – a song that has a strong and enduring spiritual quality.

‘The Streets’ is beautiful, definitely one of the album highlights. Done in one take in the studio, the vocal performance is superb. This is very much about capturing a moment for the record, presenting it as it was done – and this somehow makes the music more real and authentic.

At times, I hear chat in the rising scene on who are the best vocalists. There are many great singers, and many with great range and technical ability but I’d struggle to think of a singer that delivers performances with more heart than John Drake. ‘The Streets’ underlines this point. 

To put it simply, ‘Rock N Roll Paradise’ bangs. A song that explains why The Dust Coda are worthy of sharing a stage with Guns N Roses this summer.

‘Free All The Dancers’ I picked as our focus track for the Monday Rockshow because I think it’s the most fun and extrovert song on the album – a song that sums up the album brilliantly. Big riffs and dirty guitars, great drums, assured bass – all crowned by a vocal that soars to the skies. Too long to be a radio single but the best radio songs are often songs that aren’t meant to be radio singles in the first place. The long sumptuous outro with a mood change reminded me of ‘Layla.’ The thing I like about ‘Free All The Dancers’ is how the song makes you feel. You can sense the excitement from the band making the song and the room sound at the end of the song delivers the authentic full stop to a big, dynamic song.

‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ is maybe the pick of the album. Lots of Led Zep and Plant vibes here; a big song that fans of ‘Sweet Love’ – the Astral version – will simply adore. The song builds beautifully with an explosive finish. This is the kind of song The Dust Coda have mastered – and is an oeuvre of song where no one can really touch them.

‘On Fire’ starts the album finale and is a song with strong narrative quality. In my mind, side two of the album is so much better, it’s the more expansive songs that allow the band members to shine – and its where the magic is. ‘On Fire’ is a muscular song with a hint of menace. There’s Big riffs from Adam, whose playing is superb throughout the album. In some ways, this is TDC’s Rage Against The Machine song. No guitar in the sparse verses, but big guitars and ballsy choruses with thumping drums. The Dust Coda at their monstrous best.

‘It Won’t Be Long’ closes the album. ‘On Fire’ is quite a hard song to follow, but this is a heartfelt song about enduring – “The song is sung, the sun has shone.” A song that reminds us that, as with the Covid era, rock n roll helps us and keeps our hearts alive – and “Forever Young.”

John and Adam write the songs. The vocal and magical guitar work are core to the band’s DNA. But a special mention on this album has to go out for the rhythm section, who deliver their finest playing on any TDC album. From drumming on ‘Come The Night’ to the unbelievable touch and feel of many of Tony’s bass sections, this is possibly The Dust Coda album where every band member is at the top of their game: ‘Loco Paradise’ is an album where the listener can hear that everyone in the band is putting in a real shift. Everyone has moments to shine – but it’s the complete picture that makes the music special.

It’s mid-way through year now and I haven’t mentioned any Album of the Year contenders yet. But I have a feeling about this one. The quality of the playing and singing, the directness and strength of the delivery and the authentic truth about a band just doing what they do – all this comes together to present an album that has shelf-life and may well stand tall when it comes to reviewing the albums people are still enjoying come the end of the year.

So maybe, after all, this is the best Dust Coda album yet. It’s a hard thing to call given the love many people still have for the debut and everything since. And ‘best’ is such a subjective term. What I will say is ‘Loco Paradise’ ispossibly the most interesting album the band has done. And it’s also the most assured album too – because the band aren’t trying to out-play themselves or any band around them. They are just doing what they do – and that’s more than enough to make them one of the most dramatic and emphatic bands in British rock today. ‘Loco Paradise’ sets a new benchmark, not just for The Dust Coda but in the scene at large – and with the band’s Hyde Park gig around the corner, this is but the start for a band that will be playing stadiums in years to come.

‘Loco Paradise’ is released on 7th July 2023

Album pre-orders from the Earache Webstore https://webstore.earache.com/A-Z/d/the-dust-coda

Listen again to some of our archive audio interviews with The Dust Coda

Feature Interview: Scott talks about chart success for ‘Mojo Skyline’
Short interview: Adam talks 2020 plans from a wintry and windswept Whitstable

Feature interview: 2018 interview series in four parts

Share this review

Facebook
Twitter

More Album Reviews