South London quintet Dignan Porch occupy something of a unique position amongst UK guitar bands. They are the only UK group signed to esteemed US indie label Captured Tracks, based in Brooklyn and home to Beach Fossils, DIIV and Wild Nothing. A very strong musical aesthetic binds together these groups, one defined by dreamy, slightly lo-fi guitar sounds drenched in melody and melancholy. Dignan Porch sonically fit in with that aesthetic, yet their second album – and first as a fully-fledged band – Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen falls short of the standards of the best of their exalted labelmates.
Dignan Porch originally began as a solo project for singer Joe Walsh. The first Dignan Porch release was the 2010 debut Tendrils, which was very much a lo-fi bedroom based recording. Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen can in effect be considered the band’s debut. The primitive sound of the debut is swapped for a kind of halfway house between scuzzy guitar fuzz and expansive and clean anthems.
The songs and melodies collected here are certainly more expansive. The harmonies of Hayley Akins help to add some much needed colour to the wan uninspiring vocals of Walsh. While the songs are more developed, the main problem is that they are utterly in thrall to the sounds of the past and the influences are apparent throughout. The sepia tinged ringing guitar sounds of Picking Up Dust and Sad Shape are reminiscent of early The Cure reflected through a hazy gauze and the drawn out guitar jams of Pink Oil and TV Shows bring to mind the meandering indie rock style that Pavement so perfected. Dignan Porch sadly lack the sense of mystery and beguiling quality of these groups leaving their tracks as admittedly pretty and pleasant but ultimately slightly forgettable.
Despite the reverential quality of much of the music here, there are a few moments of real quality that stand out. Never is possessed with a lovely languid twinkling melody while Cancelled TV Shows, a call-back to the earlier track TV Shows) features the band breaking loose and engaging in some rousing guitar propulsion ending in an excellent guitar solo. A few more thrilling moments like these would have been very welcome.
It’s hard to work out over the course of the album exactly what defines Dignan Porch as a band. There is little that is unique or outstanding. You frequently feel that you have heard this sort of thing before. The lyrics give little away as they are mostly buried beneath the mix of fuzzy guitars. There is a general melancholic atmosphere but the band does not do enough to really draw you in and compel you to listen.
Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen is a frustrating album. It is abundantly clear that Joe Walsh is capable of writing vibrant and melodic guitar rock, but too often the result comes out as samey and indifferent. The record drags when it should soar. Perhaps a more strongly defined individual sound in the future will help them stand out and perhaps eventually better their US contemporaries. For now, they are merely treading water.