Even with all the music, past and present swirling around us at all times, do you ever feel like you’ve missed the boat? Like, REALLY missed it, as in getting wind of one of the coolest, most jangly, bluesy, rollicking and free-spirited bands you’ve ever heard 30 YEARS after they released their first album?
Yep, that’s the visceral mixed sensation of self-lashing and euphoria I got when I started listening to Diesel Park West, a classic meets alt-rock band of MTV and major label era refugees dazzling anew with Let It Melt, their debut album on Dallas based hipster indie label Palo Santo. So why has their lengthy and colorful career never led to extreme mainstream success on this side of the Pond? Frontman, songwriter and guitarist John Butler has the answer on one of the album’s most compelling and incisive (yet humorous and whimsical) tracks: yep, “Everybody’s Nuts.”
The album title is clearly a riff on Let It Be/Let it Bleed, and that’s hardly a coincidence. With live vocals and raw, edgy performances by Butler, Rich Barton (guitar/vocals), Geoff Beavan (bass) and Rob Morris (drums), everything’s a super contemporary reflection of today’s corporate defiant Indie/DIY energy. Yet when you hear the first rumblings of the title track or, say, “The Golden Mile” (a metaphor for world-weary true self-discovery on the last stretch) and Butler’s raw, inviting, sometimes talk-singing vocals, you could swear you’re listening to the freshest Stones outtakes ever.
On other tracks, most notably the album’s bangy, clangy yet exuberantly harmonic “Pictures in the Hall,” Butler’s vocals take on a richer, throatier Bowie-esque cool. Retro flashbacks to legends like Bowie, Mick/Keith, The Byrds and Lou Reed come to mind throughout, and all those “love child of” fantasies are easy go-to points of reference.
Yet beyond the music, Diesel Park West is a story of music industry. They actually formed as another group called The Filberts back in 1980. Good thing they redubbed themselves Diesel Park West – because their ability to chug on like a feisty locomotive and beat the odds so that 39 years later we can regale in the coalescing offbeat joys of Let It Melt. Something tells me this is just the start of the next stretch.