Dick Diver’s third album may branch out more than ever, but it only proves their continuing reliability, writes MAX EASTON.
On Dick Diver’s third LP, the band feels less inclined to remind you explicitly of where they come from. In-line with the globalised album title of Melbourne, Florida, Dick Diver spend less time at Centrelink or the local IGA, and instead mourn shadows in the kitchen, abandonment in the driveway and waits by the household telephone. Though they’ve always been relatable, they’re relating to a less specific set of reference points. Even if your memory may not be as sparked by Dick Diver referring to [Keno](/news/4460309) or New Start, there’s probably a driveway in everyone’s life that’s just as chilling.
The focus on a Dick Diver record will always be on its lyrics, but that glosses over the subtlety of the textures they lay underneath the wordplay. Dick Diver have a proven knack for harnessing the subtle melancholy of everyday life before a word has even been spoken. Often you barely need to hear what they have to say to know what they’re about to reach for. From the snare thwack of ?Waste the Alphabet? that kicks it all off to the sparse closing of ?View From a Shaky Ladder?, you’re taken through a world of shallow turmoils by not just their standard four-piece backing, but with the wheeling out of intermittent horns, synths, lap steel and rolling piano lines. Dick Diver employ a host of guests like a variety show to flavour their songs when required, sweeping through the guitar-based folk extensions with one-off textural oddities. Guitarist Rupert Edwards questions wryly in the album’s press release if it will make him feel like a musician, but that’s not what the effect has at all – it feels like they’ve welcomed more into the fold rather than decorating themselves in Spector-esque regalia.
The appeal of Melbourne, Florida isn’t in the new decorations, but in the firming of the band’s four continuing personalities. Edwards continues his knack for writing songs that feel like he’s kicking a stone along a footpath with his hands in his pockets, while Al McKay coins another favourite phrase for shit-talking in ?Waste the Alphabet?. Meanwhile, Al Montfort returns to his subtle sloganeering in ?Beat Me Up? and Steph Hughes dabbles again in her trademark turns of phrase (is it ?wandering about wondering? or ?wondering about wandering? on ?View From a Shaky Ladder??). It’s easy to read too much into the lyrics of Dick Diver (?Blue goes back to red again? as a turn on election night is too much of a stretch even for me), mostly because their music is so welcoming. Sometimes the wordplay is so entwined with my first impressions of what the songs could be about that I can’t break the connection. Ultimately, it’s this depth of connection Dick Diver create with their listeners that makes them so loved.
?Their mission statement has grown in depth even as it returns to the well.?
The growing affection for Dick Diver from 2009?s [Ark’s Up](/releases/2000507) EP to now has been tracked by scarcely a change in their musical intent. Instead they seem to find comfort in what they’re doing as more people develop a familiarisation with the characters of the band. If anything, it feels like there are more people around who are ?in? on it. With that inclusive feeling between band and audience, there’s a sense that they’re relaxed and confident enough to be unperturbed by external judgement, freeing them to include moments of untidiness when others might trim the loose threads.
On each of Dick Diver’s records there have been moments that could be perceived as wayward. On 2013?s [Calendar Days](/releases/2001180)*, tracks like ?Languages of Love? that weren’t of the typical Dick Diver mould broke the flow of the record’s swooning continuum for skewered statements. This returns on *Melbourne, Florida* with ?Beat Me Up?, the arrival of Montfort’s croaky vocal quickly followed by Gary Numan-esque synth lines. In the same way that the off-kilter ?Head Back? from *[New Start Again](/releases/2000956) later became a mocking faux-cool live experience (replete with Montfort bearing sunglasses and swinging his microphone by its lead), ?Beat Me Up? feels like Montfort is thrust to the front of a karaoke booth. Even if it disrupts the steady flow forged by the seamless three-track run of ?Waste the Alphabet? to ?Leftovers?, a moment like this is reliably kept for its charm. The consequence of a pitch-imperfect vocal disrupting flow is less to Dick Diver than the message it might send, but to be on board with such a moment of questionable (by convention) tracking, you have to be in on it – you have to want to feel Montfort’s presence. With Dick Diver, it can feel as though you sign up as much for the equal input of Edwards, Hughes, McKay and Montfort as anything else.
All the band’s growth and personality flows into a continuity that’s present on this record, with lines from previous releases returning reassembled in their new homes. ?Nothing ever happens here/but it will? from Calendar Days? [?Amber?](http://chaptermusic.bandcamp.com/track/amber) becomes the optimistic turn of ?Whatever happens/I think everything will? on ?Year in Pictures?. In line with the steady progression of Dick Diver from niche act on the precipice of a movement to one that has found its broad appeal, their mission statement has grown in depth even as it returns to the well.
Melbourne, Florida isn’t the Dick Diver album you must own, but neither are any of their records in particular. Each is an extension of the same charm that lies between the four of them, proffered in slightly different ways. Edwards states via a Simpsons reference in their press release that this record is proof of their lack of range, but to me it’s evidence of their reliability. Any song from their earliest EPs to their latest record wouldn’t be out of place next to each other, and there’s not a single dud in the 44 tracks that span their recorded career. Melbourne, Florida, then, is like another season of episodes to return to, with all the memories of what came before to remind you why you watched in the first place.