Sound — 8
From the opening bombast of the record's first track, Big Chomper, Big Chomper it is clear that this foursome is at it's core a straight ahead beat oriented rock and roll ensemble. Quickly the music develops to incorporate some unexpected sonic elements, both in the arrangement, and augmented studio and tonal affects. The verses in this track give way to unexpected verse structure, a device which is deftly repeated throughout the record. Additionally, unusual vocal harmonies underscore a systematic application of tension which adds to the content of the verses. With keen attention to thematic structure, the band harnesses the momentum achieved in the verses to release a heavy refrain, imbibed with energy. This process is diagnostic of the bands greater skill; they take the listener on a dynamic musical experience. Throughout this record Dr Manhattan employs similar techniques to create a variety of color and emotion. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the record is the track Baton Rouge, which is a fine example of musical finesse and keen arrangement. This stylish tune begins with an accordion track supplying a stylistic tip of the cap to Zydeco influences. Later a brass instrument in the production returns the favor. These elements augmented by Vombrack's skillful use of a hi hat to underscore the motion of the verses, creates a smooth, colorful musical run. A fine balance of drama and restraint is the key to the success of this track. In a very appropriate and congruent manner, the track culminates in a set of parallel, energetic vocal lines over the main melody.
Lyrics — 7
The overarching theme of the lyrical craftsmanship with which Dr. Manhattan's album is crafted relies on a series of colorful images and metaphors strung together in a stream of consciousness presentation which compliments the musical structure quite effectively. The lyrical tendency toward abstraction is apparent from the first lines of the opening track which is written: What's the point of converse if it's not engaging and long?/What's the point of learning if you knew it all along? Whether explicit, or subtle, the lyrics support a questioning, exploratory tone throughout. The lyricist continually poses challenges to the listener's understanding by employing a series of skillfully crafted metaphors such as: Take some time./'Cause sadly knots are actually not capable of/Breaking off what they've held strong/For years too long. The disjointed nature of the lyrical narrative seems quite intentional, and works well to lure the listener into a spectrum of feeling ranging from trepidation, to anthemic confidence, to humor, and many places in between.
Overall Impression — 7
Dr. Manhattan's self-titled debut is a pirate ship journey of sound evolving and unfolding, surging and releasing, incorporating unexpected sonic elements to produce a well crafted offering of musical arrangement. Clearly Dr Manhattan has jumped from the starting blocks with a more-than-healthy supply of musical ambition, and tenacity. On the process of creating music, Drummer Nick Vombrack claims, We want to ruin everyone's current thoughts on music and replace them with what we are doing, which is really organized chaos. This ambitious goal, which is pervasive throughout musical forms, is perhaps informative when assessing the multiple directions and diversity of feeling with which Dr Manhattan operates. Vombrack continues: Now is such a good time to be making music because everyone is so starving for some good. These are the times when something good happens. This is when everything changes. Perhaps the most elusive goal in all of the arts is to produce such a revolution which yields something altogether new. Although music is by definition formulaic, it is the ability to synthesize musical traditions which creates change. This offering from the Dread Pirate Ship Dr. Manhattan is a musical experience well suited for a time of innovation.