Review: Dowsing, ‘Okay’
It’s been a pretty bumpy ride for me and Dowsing from the jump; the amount of praise that surrounded both ‘It’s Still Pretty Terrible’ and ‘I Don’t Even Care Anymore’ was enough for me to regularly venture into them with hopes of something finally clicking for me. Nothing ever did, but I still wanted to like Dowsing. I don’t know why I was so hellbent on this band, but I’ve boiled it down to the following two ideas. The first is that a lot of my friends loved this band, and I wanted to be a part of that. The second being that Pokemon has held a special place in my heart since childhood, so seeing a band with as much buzz as Dowsing with a song called “GENGAR! GENGAR! GENGAR!” was enough to bait me.
Shortly after the release of ‘I Don’t Even Care Anymore’, Dowsing lost two of their original members. My thoughts immediately jumped to “Alright, cool. I guess I missed out on that opportunity.” Three years, two demo collections, and infinite re-listens saw me still trying to fall in love with Dowsing. This brings us to the present, where I’m sitting on a bedroom floor and on my umpteenth listen to the Chicago quartet’s third LP, which is untitled but thanks to some truly iconic artwork, will be forever remembered as ‘Okay.’
The album begins with a roaring, raucous delivery of the line “Punk is dead and your friends will be soon.” There’s a newfound vocal grit and aggression that immediately hit me, and the first minute or so of “Wasted On Hate” felt like what I had been looking for since 2012. Something clicked and I knew that once I started this record, I wasn’t going to be able to stop. In the two weeks that I’ve had this record, I’ve spent countless hours both at work and home with it. There’s the perfect blend of aggression and catchiness that makes me want to keep coming back to it. Okay.
With ‘Okay,’ Dowsing sounds and feels like a completely different band. Their first two albums felt at home amongst the catalogue of contemporaries like You Blew It! and Brave Bird, but this record falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of punk between Spraynard and Against Me! This is best demonstrated on “Feeling Better” and “Grunge For Life.” These are two of the shortest songs on the record, but they pack some of the biggest punch.
“Feeling Better” is an optimist’s punk rock anthem. There’s no bullshit — no attempt at some grandiose and uplifting spiritual anthem, just a simple “I’m feeling better/but for how long I tossed and turned” Since the song is lyrically concise, it’s one of the first that will bury itself in your head. You’ll hear the first few notes of the song and instinctively feel the desire to shout “I’m feeling better” at the world.
“Grunge For Life” is pretty much the opposite of “Feeling Better.” The shouty vocals are a little more intense, and lyrically, the song packs more bite. It’s very clearly built on personal experience, most likely surrounding the departure of two of their original members as communicated by lyrics like “It’s a shame that we destroyed a community on the false accounts of a human being.”
It’s not exactly a one-two punch as the songs were separated by first single, and the song that most closely resembles their previous work, “Kept Me Around.” The tail end of ‘Okay’ makes up for that in spades with both “Outside” and “Red Legs Kicking.” These are the last two songs on what is inarguably the best record of Dowsing’s career, and the energy that radiates off of them is just incredible.
Alone, “Outside” is the perfect example of the transformation that took place between ‘I Don’t Even Care Anymore’ and ‘Okay.’ Musically, it’s one of the more energetic and in your face songs on the album with lyrics that discuss the past, present, and future of the band. The opening lyric, “I hope we die like we began/in a basement/with no one else around” eventually becomes a shouted refrain for the band. The “I hope we die like we began” is the line that ties it all together. When you strip the lyrics of the music, they read as a cautionary tale for those who choose to dive into music headfirst. The song feels so personal that the transition from “I hope we die like we began” into a repeated “I hope we die” feels as rewarding as it does cathartic. As a listener, you’re given this incredible opportunity into the world of Dowsing through the lens of “Outside” and it’s one that does not disappoint.
“Red Legs Kicking” brings the album to an end with one of the most poignant openings, both lyrically and musically, that the band has to offer. The song starts with “Maybe I’ll shut up/Rip my voice box out/and let this die.” It’s bitter and reflective, bouncing off of the energy and ideals of “Outside.” It’s angry and disenchanted, and this is clearly the aftermath of everything that Dowsing has been through up until this point. They’ve given up trying to sugarcoat anything at this point, and it’s worked in their favor.
I cannot get enough of this album. I’m hoping that this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Dowsing, although it would be one hell of a way for them to go out. Their third album is one packed with honest aggression, reflection of betrayal, and the growth that can come from that. This is the Dowsing record that I’ve been waiting for, the songs we’ve known that they were capable of, and I’m hoping for more of this in the future.