Broad Shoulders was the record where Dikembe showed their indie-emo chops. It felt versatile and flexible in terms of rock music, able to swim in and out so many genres but still sticking true to their Gainesville roots. Pretty much anything Dikembe do, even side-project Donor, comes off with a lot of musical intelligence and with several dimensions to it. That’s where Mediumship falls flat though. It comes off singular-minded and sticking to a minimal watered-down sound that gets too repetitive.
They lost the mid-tempo aspects of their sound and trimmed it down to more threadbare, wispy melodies. It’s much more spacey and melodic than first assumed which isn’t even the problem. The flaw lies in too many of the songs adopting the same approach. They feel half-finished. “Even Bother” and “Hood Rat Messiah” are two of the stronger tracks on the record although they exhibit the above complaint in spades. Sure, a few of these won’t be an issue but the majority of the album adopts this stance. It feels like Brand New demos and Manchester Orchestra B-sides.
Dikembe didn’t mix things up and I’m shocked as to why. This feels like a play-safe album with few tracks breaking the mold. “Las Vegas Weather” tries to weave in slightly heavier sprawls into the mix but at day’s end, there’s just too much contemplative shoegaze to stomach. Some of the verse structures do wander into better territory a bit with nods to All Get Out and It Looks Sad coming to mind but ultimately, the haunting, twisted guitars feel like too much of a chore on the subconscious as opposed to organically soothing indie.
They flex their less noisy muscles and do throw little temper tantrums here and there on the album which ideally could have worked if done much, much more. But still, you can’t shake the feeling of wasted potential. Is it a bad record? No way. Is it good? Well, yeah but not all that impressive, given the high standard Dikembe’s usually associated with. It does feel free-flowing in its passion and raw emotion a lot but still, you need to come better strategically and stir the pot a bit. In other words, don’t go back to the drawing board — just go back to the basics of Broad Shoulder and Chicago Bowls. The three-chord start-stop of “Donuts in a Six Speed” is a prime example why. It’s one of the brightest spots on Mediumship that begged for more music to be fleshed out in a similar vein.
3/5 Stars – Stream the entire album below.