Up in Chalk
Album Review: 'Up in Chalk' by The Dags Up In Chalk, the 3rd album by Newport-based band The Dags, has just been released. The band's growing fan base will already know to expect melodious tunes with intelligent lyrics and this album will not disappoint. There are songs of hope, optimism and joy to cheer us up on gloomy days but darker themes are also explored such as broken relationships, illness and the perils of loose women. There's even an offering for the soundtrack to the next James Bond blockbuster too! Admirably showcasing the band's talent, this eclectic mix of songs and styles sit together well allowing the album to flow smoothly from beginning to end. Opening with a raunchy rock track Medusa's Touch warns of the perils and pitfalls of dating a woman with a heart of stone whose only interest is one-night-stands. This is followed by New York and Wonder Girls, a great original song with fantastic hooks. Then we have the upbeat title track Up In Chalk with it's mixed messages about wanting success and recognition - but not at any price! Now picture high stakes, fast cars, beautiful women, life-or-death adventures, and lightning fast action: All this coupled with a clever twist at the end leaves the listener in no doubt about the target market for the song Lightning - could someone in the band be secretly harbouring ambitions of becoming the next Bond? If so maybe they should take heed of the song Easy Dreams which warns 'be careful what you dream for!' Fresh Start deals with someone determined to move on after a failed relationship. This could sound trite but lead vocalist Alan Coles injects a hint of bitterness in his voice which gives the song a strong edgy feel. Bigger Men, bemoans the difficulties of coming up with fresh and original songs and lyrics when so many great ones have already been written. Have you ever fallen for someone and wondered if your feelings are reciprocated and then caught them smiling when they think you're not looking? That's the moment captured forever in the sweet love song I Caught You Smile. However, don't get too comfortable because much darker, complex emotions are captured in next big rock number Shiny Things, which is about a man pushed one step too far. The final two tracks are quieter introspective numbers which bring the album nicely to a close. Upstream continues the theme of hopes and aspirations while the final track Waiting is a delightful tune which, in my view, is the best produced track on the album. Horns and vocal harmonies are used to good effect in this song which is topped and tailed by a nostalgic nod to the days of vinyl. As with The Dags previous two albums, all of the songs were composed by guitarist and vocalist Alan Coles and have been thoughtfully collated at Towpath Studios with some deft touches from producer and fellow band member Mike Hopkins. If the band keep producing work to this high standard I reckon their name will soon be up in lights not just chalk. Bob Davies, Presenter, Radio Glamorgan © Bob Davies, August 2008.