Friday, June 30, 2017

The Din - "The Din Does Laundry" CD Review!!

To end the month, here's our 96th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, as we're looking at local alternative hard rock trio The Din's debut paid release "The Din Does Laundry"! With no public timeframe for the release of their second official studio album, and The Din having played live thrice in June 2017, now's a perfect time to look at their initial live CD, barring their old Mike Haggith & The Din free albums from their acid jam beginnings. Recorded on March 4th, 2016 at The Gore Street Cafe during their acoustic Fishbowl Festival set at the laundromat (hence the album name), the CD was released on April 2nd of last year during their set at the Rednecks Saloon's relaunch party, and features their current lineup, including singer/bassist Mike Haggith, guitarist Tammy Hill, and drummer Brandan Glew on the drums & cajon, given the unplugged setting. Copies of "The Din Does Laundry" ran for $3 last year, and may still be available at shows or on personal request.

Unfortunately, given the inclusion of four covers of outside artists, the album is not available in full online to purchase, but I will link song names to online copies where available to the songs performed, in concert or otherwise. Also, with 3/5ths of the album comprised of songs available in full studio form via The Din's studio album "Give In To The Din" or earlier Mike Haggith solo albums, comparisons to the older recordings are inevitable, especially given the unplugged nature of them, though the covers and two exclusive tracks are completely open. Featuring 15 tracks and 1 bonus song clocking in at around 64 minutes, let's begin our review!

This CD (and concert) starts with "Analog Palace", a cover of Mike's solo song from his 2009 album "I Hate My Life & I Want To Die", and one of the few songs from The Din's acid jam era to return in modern sets. The original version was already a melancholy softer number, so it fits just fine with The Din in this setting, but this cover is noticeably more upbeat, particularly thanks to Mike projecting his voice more and showing his improved singing. Overall, this live version is better recorded and sounds tighter than the original, including solid guitar picking from Tammy, but keep in mind that Mike was 7 years older and more experienced during this concert, so improvement could be expected. Also, keep in mind that full banter between songs is included on the CD, which could be a plus or minus depending on the listener, but it does maintain the live concert feel here! However, the album-long 6 minute run-time for this track is deceiving, as the last minute is just banter.

Second is "Of Cars & Criminals" (or "Of Cars & Coin Machines", as Brandan jokingly named it on their setlist), which is a cover of a song from Mike's final solo CD, 2015's "The Warinside". Much like their fully electric versions of the song, this is much shorter and sans the original's symphonic elements, but it's otherwise similar to the first copy. Brandon gets a good beat out of his cajon on this one, Tammy's solo sounds good for acoustic, and Mike's voice really soars on this catchy number that hopefully makes the cut for their second studio album! That's followed by the first cover of an outside band, which was "Fragile Bird" by acoustic folk notables City & Colour, which was actually making it's live debut in a Din set that night. I'm not a huge City & Colour fan, but the smooth and laid back style is a great fit for the acoustic setting, and it will be a familiar selection for Din fans who saw them live last year, and Brandan (I assume) handles tambourine duties well also!

The fourth song is "Out Of My League", which actually starts at the end of the prior track. Another carry-over from "The Warinside", and the CD's first song to be re-recorded on the "Give in to The Din" studio album that summer, this is very similar structurally to their later studio version compared to the symphonic-infused original, this is one of my favourite Din songs, but it doesn't translate as well to an unplugged environment, with Mike's voice sounding a little scratchy, and the heavier instrumentation is missed compared to the more free-wheeling studio copy. Not a bad rendition, but unless you demand acoustic, The Din have better out there. Next is one of only two completely original Din tracks on the set, "In Search of the Perfect Moment", and while this is another song that sounds slightly forced to fit the acoustic setting, it's a better fit, and the chorus singing is actually an improvement on the later studio version. Tammy gets another solid guitar solo, and Brandan beats the cajon with solid rhythm as well, so fans should be happy with this one at this early stage of the CD!

Sixth on "The Din Does Laundry" is a bonus track (yes, at this point of the CD), namely a cover of "We Met As Surrogates", also known as "We Met At The Circus", which is also taken from Mike's "Warinside" album. Massively simplified compared to the original, complete with a lack of meandering intro or beeping phone at the end, the song is a good fit into The Din's sets, no matter where they met or who they met as! Brandan gets some moments to unload on the cajon, and Mike has a nice melody to his singing on the choruses, and though the song is noticeably slower paced than the original, remember that this was an acoustic show. Next is the advertised sixth song on the album, namely a cover of The Barenaked Ladies' "The Old Apartment", which is a nice fit into Din sets, and that is the same here, though I think drumming would be a better fit than the tambourine on this version. Mike even hits a bit of a falsetto note on this one, and he and Tammy play off of each other well, so fans of the original or The Din's plugged in covers should be right at home!

After some brief subliminal advertising for their then-upcoming set at last year's VM Radio Battle of the Bands, The Din played their original song "Flux" next, and while I find it's a far better fit plugged-in given it's heavier edge, the guys adapt it well to an acoustic setting, and Brandan even has an extended "drum-off" with Mike mid-song, so if you ever wanted to hear that in this atmosphere, here you go! Before that, the song went fine and had a good melody, and it ended strongly too, so fans should enjoy this rendition! The next song is "Spin Cycle", which isn't really a song at all, The Din just titled the 49 seconds of banter before the next track separately for one reason or another, and they don't reference it's title (a presumed allusion to the laundromat) at all either. Why not combine this with the song proper and give "We Met As Surrogates" a proper credit?

The actual next song is "A Drive Through The Peninsula", yet another selection taken from "The Warinside" before making The Din's studio CD,  and honestly, this fits the best so far of any song that had a prior or later studio version by a Mike Haggith project! The song was already a slower mid-tempo number, so it adapts nicely to the unplugged setting, and Mike's singing is clear as crystal! The mid-song instrumental bridge is a little too quiet for my liking, and the instrumental jam at song's end wasn't implemented yet, but it's a solid and effective acoustic rendition that fans of the original will like! Another cover is next, namely The Foo Fighters' "Times Like These" (well, "Tiimes Like These", if you believe Brandan's setlist), and I think they tuned down the song a little too much for the setting here, with Mike's lower register singing not really necessary, as the original song is melodic enough that he could have sung it normally like in their regular shows and got away with it. Other than that, the guys sound good, and Brandan's backing vocals add an extra element too!

Song #12 is another song borrowed from Mike's solo career, namely "Cowardly Hearts Beneath The Stars" from his 2014 EP "A Place Of Our Own". Much like many other solo carryovers in this set, The Din stripped out the orchestral elements for a basic acoustic rock sound (granted, you almost have to here), and as a result, this more has a folk/modern rock hybrid sound, if that makes any sense. The drawn out guitar plucking is handled better electrically, but the song's soft enough to fit in this format, but keep in mind that it feels like a different song somewhat moreso than the others. After announcing plans to hold a contest post-set for Battle of the Bands tickets, the next song of sorts is "Leamington, Ontario", which is simply the spoken word intro that Mike frequently gives to precede the next song in concerts to set up it's inspiration. I've never thought it stood alone as it's own credited song, and would be better served as the first chunk of the next track, but that's just me.

As longtime Din fans will know, the next song is "75", a song borrowed from Mike's old band Haggith's 2013 album "Deuce" (which Mike left the drumkit to sing lead for back then too), but it loses something in acoustic form. The original heavy & freewheeling number is always a highlight of Din shows, and Haggith before them, but in a minimalist acoustic form, it feels like a by the numbers rendition without the life and swagger we're used to. It's not badly done, but this isn't a great fit for an unplugged concert.

The penultimate song on "The Din Does Laundry" is a cover of The Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends", and this is a faithful cover that sounds like the original playing to The Din's strengths, and can you ask for any more? Mike could have harmonized more on the final singing of "friends", and this song in particular sounded a little empty without electric guitars, but Beatles fans should appreciate the cover! The album closes with what was then called "This Potato May Be Used As A Flotation Device", another carry-over from Mike's "A Place Of Our Own", though it was renamed "Potato (Should've Known Better)" for the "Give in to The Din" CD. Much like on "75", this song does lose it's fun hard rocking nature in an acoustic setting, and feels more like it was played that night because fans expected to hear it. Good rendition, as everything is on the CD, but many of the earlier songs were better fits for an unplugged set.

So, what are my final thoughts on The Din's debut paid live CD? Overall, it's a fun look at The Din in a more reserved setting with a lot of exclusive tracks, and if you like their softer material, you'll enjoy this a great deal! One big plus to buying this album may be the fact that 8 of the 14 actual songs (4 Mike Haggith solo songs and 4 outside covers) are otherwise not yet available on CD from the modern day Din, and in the latter case, likely never will be, so this is worth tracking down for extra songs in nice recording quality! Mike's singing and bass work are just fine throughout the album, with Tammy Hill adapting effectively to the acoustic setting on guitar, and Brandan drumming as well on a cajon as you'd hope, but fans who prefer and/or only listen to electric guitar-driven rock may be disappointed by this album (remember, this was recorded at The Gore Street Cafe.) Also, only 2 of the album's songs are complete original tracks that debuted with The Din, but remember that this predated their first studio album.

That all said, this gives fans a complete window into their Fishbowl Festival set last year, which wasn't publically filmed for social media, and isn't visibly edited in any substantial fashion, and while heavier songs aren't clean fits to the unplugged style, songs like "Of Cars & Criminals" & "In Search of the Perfect Moment" showcase The Din at their best in this format! If you can find or request a copy, definitely consider it so you too can give in to The (unplugged) Din! I hope you guys liked this month's CD review, but what's coming next in July 2017? I can't 100% confirm anything at this juncture, but here's some hints. In terms of who isn't next, don't expect the AlgomA/Shit Liver split cassette or a SweetKenny album next due to our 6 month anti-bias buffer, but if it's released quickly, the former could be reviewed as soon as August 1st! A new metal, hard rock, or punk album will of course take precedence if it's released, so stay tuned for our next "Where Are The New Albums?" post on Sunday for hints therein on what may be coming out.

If we must dip into the archives for a review, possibilities include A Fall From Innocence's self-titled CD, The Bear Hunters' "Collapse The Sun" single, Haggith's "Apocalypse II" or an archive Mike Haggith solo album (technically, these are separate from The Din), The Rising Tide's second CD, and Integrated System of Machines' self-titled CD, as members of each band are playing live next month, but nothing is final yet. Stay tuned for updates on that front, and for more news and notes in the month of July, with our 10th anniversary fast approaching also! Thanks everyone!

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