REVIEW: DANICA DARES - CURATING THE LUNATIC
A daring debut from the lockdown
Danica Dares can be summed up in one word: intriguing. When I first sat down and listened to one of their singles back at the start of the year, I was met with something that's not usually on my radar; an atmospherically pleasing sound wrapped in a blanket of chorus, reverb and synths, akin to the more experimental work of The Cure. There's been a nostalgia craze since the early 2010s, but rather than hopping on the gravy train, Danica Dares have adopted the tonalities of the alternative 80s sound and given it just enough pop sensibility for it hook you in. The band, formed during the first UK lockdown due to a chance meeting online, is comprised of vocalist Harriet McBain, Jon Haines on bass and electronica and Richard Sanderson on guitars, and the trio definitely gel well enough to bring out the best of each other, so Curating The Lunatic has a lot to live up to.
Opener "Giving It Away" is a strong start for the album, though it's not your conventional first cut on a record, as it sets up more of an atmospheric tone for the remainder tracks rather than smashing straight out of the gate with a thumping attitude. This works perfectly for the band, as the tune has a very hooky vocal rhythm and swaggering chorus guitar, akin to something from Disintergration. We get our thumper in the following track "Feral Kids", but we also get our first taste of McBain's poetic spoken word style, and it's a brilliant curveball. Her performance on this track is simply astounding; the way she bursts in the chorus and carries is impressive as fuck. "Paranoia Party" was one of the first submissions we had when we launched the website, and it hasn't lost its charm. The crescendo, the immediate stop, the swelling and stabbing synths; it's all killer. "Run", featured on yesterday's Fresh Meat article, is a similarly moody and atmospheric number, yet still has that catchiness to keep you listening. But it's "Fini" that has become the standout track for me, with a pulsing open before kicking into a verse that reminds me of A Flock Of Seagulls if they were fronted by Debbie Harry. McBain is on top form as well, her vocals literally soaring throughout the song thanks to some inventively used reverb, and it's cloaked in an 80s pop veneer that gives it an elevated spark that burns bright.
However, as good as this project is, there's room for improvement. The production can, at times, feel a little lacking in the instrumentals, though I'd guess that this is because the entire album was made completely remotely. The production overall isn't bad, I just know it could sound richer with a bit more scope and touching up. McBain's natural vocal ability carries a lot of the record, and she can't be faulted, although on tracks like "Bullets" and "Don't Matter", it's not enough to give them the power that the rest of the record has, and they don't hit as well as a result. Nevertheless, Danica Dares have a fruitful career ahead of them, and I'm excited to see what they can do on a more grandiose scale. They do prove themselves time and time again on the album though, and it's no different when it comes to closing track "Conversational Bypass", a low-key six-minute epic that serves as another Dry Cleaning/PJ Harvey-style spoken word stream of consciousness for McBain, and she doesn't disappoint in closing the album in style. Amongst Haines' simple yet interesting beats and synth work and Sanderson's droning lead guitar, it's a fantastic effort, and serves as a suitable ending to the album.
Overall, Curating The Lunatic is an astonishing debut, and promises only greater things for the trio in the future. It's refreshing to see a group of people who met in a chance meeting online coming together during a tumultuous time to create music that's personal yet relatable. With a greater scope and less restrictions, they can do massive things. But for now, for Danica Dares, this is just the start of something excellent
Listen to: Run, Conversational Bypass, Fini
FFO: The Cure, Dry Cleaning, PJ Harvey