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The Dipsomaniacs - Praying Winter

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Artist: The Dipsomaniacs

Album: Praying Winter

Label: Camera Obscura

Review date: May. 5, 2004

Led by singer/guitarist Oyvind Holm, Norway's Dipsomaniacs resemble a more northern Olivia Tremor Control, albeit with a more straightforward, less experimental bent. The Beatles influence is undeniable, but the good news is that the Dipsomaniacs take the inspiration and go their own way with it, resulting in fine results. Active since 1997, the band has released a handful of albums, including the more psych-jam-oriented The Tremolo Of Her Mind / The Strings Of Her Soul, a terrific collection of spacey rock. On Praying Winter, they return to their main passion – ’60s-inspired psychedelic pop.

In many cases, particularly the opening "Dear Mrs. Widdecombe," I'd actually be remiss if I didn't remark on a stronger resemblance to the Pretty Things (circa S.F. Sorrow) than the aforementioned foursome. That song is pure psychedelic pop complete with layered vocals, strummed guitars, and floating orchestral accompaniment. And it's brilliant.

Simpler in form, but perhaps even more memorable, "How to Fall" piles careful horns over acoustic guitar and a quiet rhythm section, with beautiful vocal melodies. Some other songs notch up the rock energy a bit more, like the insistent "Feel the Travel" and "Read My Mind (And Tell Me)." The former is a head-nodder, with a steady rhythm and simple, garage guitar lead.

The band's more delicate side is evidenced by songs like "Don't Think You're Safe," a somewhat ghostly, heartbreaking piece filled with delicate guitar and vocals from someone who hasn’t always had the wind at his back. Similarly, the title track is a dreamy, downbeat piece with melancholy vocals and distantly reverbed piano. Not only that, but there's even a ghostly musical saw used in a tasteful manner – a rare thing indeed.

Not all of the songs are as memorable, and Praying Winter feels weighted towards the beginning. As it moves forward, things lose momentum, and none of the later songs have the sheer melodic girth of "Dear Mrs. Widdecombe" or "How to Fall," nor the dark beauty of "Don't Think You're Safe." This isn't to say that the later songs are bad; not at all: "Caught by This Feeling" is a rousing, sweeping pop song. But the magic of the album's first half is a challenge to meet, and the band doesn't quite manage it.

For those fond of strong melodies amid psychedelic trappings, Praying Winter is clearly a recommended purchase. But at the same time, I know that the band has an even stronger, more consistently superb album in them.

By Mason Jones

Other Reviews of The Dipsomaniacs

The Tremolo of Her Mind...The Strings of Her Soul

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