When I think of Melbourne, Florida, I think of ska, not the Go-Betweens. Dick Diver is from that other Melbourne, the classy one, part of the same Go-Betweensy “scene” as bands like the Twerps and the Stevens. Dick Diver even shares members with tuff-guy bands Total Control and UV Race—and those members are the same guy. So Dick Diver is a band with connections from a good city in a neat part of the world, and most importantly they’re pretty good at being a band, in that they write songs worth listening to. And yes, the new songs on Melbourne, Florida are worth listening to.
This is the band’s third album, and in the past they’ve firmly embraced the type of jangly guitar pop sound associated with college radio in the 1980s. “Waste the Alphabet,” the first song on Melbourne, Florida, fits right in with that aesthetic—one guitar strums, the other spits out a simple melodic line, and when the solo comes it’s relatively clean and high in the mix. The band stretches out elsewhere, though, starting with the next song, “Year in Pictures,” a low-key number built on icy keyboard parts that has a noticeable Fleetwood Mac feel. “Leftovers” builds up an incremental intro with boozy horns before sliding into a remorseful pop song with sweet vocals from drummer Steph Hughes. The slightly droning “Competition” is heavy on the organ, repeating a circular riff while other keyboards solo on top of it, like Dick Diver trying to pull a Total Control move.
They don’t deviate too far from the old sound, though. It’s still recognizably a Dick Diver record, if you’re someone who recognizes what their records sound like. “Tearing the Posters Down” is another would-be college radio classic, and the band’s always had a wistful side that emerges again on melancholic songs like “Boomer Class” and “Blue Time,” which might be the closest yet they’ve come to sounding like the Go-Betweens. These are solidly constructed pop jams, sometimes introspective but never insular, occasionally caustic in a way that’s more resigned than snotty, and always smart but with an appreciation for the simple pleasures of a good rock song. Like the band’s name, a reference to Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Dick Diver nimbly treads the middle path between high and low.