Speed Dial bassist, John Carr, comically shout-sings through a low-fidelity telephone crunch,
“What up, what up, what up bitch, it’s the dial.”
On the other side of the call, the distinguishing lark is met with a gaggle of laughter, a proper greeting to the Buffalo four-piece’s debut EP, i DUMBASS.
“Cannonball Waterslide” introduces themes of separation and identity. There is an energetic sense of freedom, but a remaining confrontation as lead singer, Cooper Taylor sings, “I like to think that you don’t know the half of what you claim you do.”
Flaunting a newfound sense of self over saucy guitar lines, Taylor is no longer bogged down by “judgements and assumptions.” Even still, a tender moment and some feverish guitar noodling and lyrics about self-improvement, show that moving forward isn’t that simple. In the remainder of the track, gang vocals shout prior lyrics back at Taylor while his head still swims with thoughts of living up to this person-on-a-pedestal.
Picking up right where the action left off, the band’s vehemence boils over in “On the Nod,” a hostile, in-your-face song that is as fun as it is full-of-rage. The group’s sputtering guitar distortion clips in and out of service like a sparking telephone line.
“Volcano” comes onto the fight scene with a big 90’s power-pop melody. Speed Dial sweetens the pot, claiming responsibility for interrelationship issues within a mellow Midwest-emo sound. Even on a slower tune like this one, the group’s frisky math-rock style continues to impress with both variability and technicality. This song might be perfect for an escapist road trip to anyplace warmer than Buffalo. String notes encroach on the angular guitar lines before fading out in an outro that rings off like the closer to the first side of the record.
The lead single, “Bird Skull,” may be the best cut here, sinking its teeth into persisting themes of separation with meticulous lyricism and zesty time changes. Each scrupulous moment cuts Speed Dial further away from the personified root of the problem. While explaining the metaphor of the bird skull, Alex Meldrum, the group’s lead guitarist, said:
“We were in a fragile state of mind, a lot of things were happening, life events that were stressful, whether it be relationships or work issues, school.”
Despite all this cathartic complexity, the song remains playful in a swaggering tension-release breakdown complete with heroic solos from drummer, Will Tutuska. This groove is as jammy as it is deliberate, a prime example of the group’s natural chemistry in what just might be the EP’s catchiest moment. Tunes like “Bird Skull” exemplify the group’s “democratic” songwriting, as they bring their sound together from multiple members. The EP’s constant evolution didn’t settle until things were eventually recorded in the studio with Trevor Balbierz. Taylor said of their experience working with Balbierz:
“It was amazing, he is the reason why that music is out … Trev deserves the world.”
Laden with progressive, yet poppy math-rock heaters, i DUMBASS is a twisting story of the group finding their identity while learning lessons from loss.