Dawes barely sounds like the Dawes we knew anymore. Throughout its first two (or partially three, depending on your point of view) albums, the California band made its name by pairing retro folk rock with earnest lyrics seemingly stemming from personal experience and a strong sense of nostalgia. But on its fifth studio LP, We’re All Gonna Die, Dawes drastically veers off this course both musically and lyrically.
These days, Dawes sounds like a funky band the hip, young dad rockers would put on to relive elements of their misspent youth. We’re All Gonna Die opens with “One of Us,” an upbeat, fuzzed out rock song that could be on a Danger Mouse-era Black Keys record, but for the subtle djembe/conga percussion. Frontman Taylor Goldsmith experiments with R&B-style falsetto on songs like the title track, and the plaintive piano songs of yore now learn more heavily on keyboard synths and textural effects.
In fact, the album’s first single, “When the Tequila Runs Out,” best showcases this transformation. The band that stole our hearts in with its elegiac woes of “All my dreams did not come true” in 2009 now offers a damn-it-all-to-hell response that laughs in the face of such existential problems: “When the tequila runs out, we’ll be drinking champagne / When the tequila runs out, we’ll be feeling no pain.” As a result, Dawes fans who want an empathetic soundtrack to their pain should look deeper into the band’s catalogue. But for who want prefer to dance or drink it away, We’re All Gonna Die serves as a celebration of our impeding doom.