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Monday, August 27th, 2012

Free Dimensional

Diamond Rings at The Drake Underground in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWe’ve certainly come a long way since late Summer, 2009 when Diamond Rings was that curious synth-pop side-project from the guy who fronted local garage-rock fixtures The D’Urbervilles (now Matters). That infectious Summer song turned into a breakout debut album in Special Affections that would take John O’Regan, his guitar and laptop and unicorn tapestry, on a glitter-and-eyeshadow-fuelled journey around the world. Quite a tale, and one that had many anxious for the sequel.

That part the second officially arrives with the release of Free Dimensional on October 23, but a small audience of industry types and fans got a sneak preview last Thursday night at the Drake Underground with a showcase that wrapped up a short US tour to road-test the new material and band. Yes, that’s right – the days of Diamond Rings being just O’Regan juggling guitar, vocal, laptop, and dance duties are a thing of the past as he’s recruited a backing band and dressed them up in matching caps, jackets, and sunglasses. The move may dismay those who loved the resolutely DIY solo setup, but it was the logical thing to do – being forced to restrict his songwriting to what he could reasonable recreate onstage on his own would have been creatively limiting and there really doesn’t exist a live act that’s not better with a full band. Fact.

O’Regan really benefitted from being freed up to fully inhabit the frontman role and decked out in an impressively shiny white leather jacket and matching jeans – oh the things you can buy with major label money – was all choreography, guitar riffs, and audience invasions – it might have been a bit familiar to those of us who’d seen The D’Urbs live, but in the Diamond Rings context made for a solid step up in live presentation. Also familiar to D’Uberville followers was Tim Bruton on guitar, though his crossover status was only a temporary one as O’Regan mentioned this would be his last gig with the band. One expects that someone else will don his coat, cap, and shades, though, because in addition to taking some of the workload off of O’Regan’s generously-padded shoulders, they really made the new material sound good – perhaps more conventional with the guitar, synth, and (electronic) drums setup, but more immediate and engaging.

Hearing how the Special Affections material would sound so arranged would have to wait for a more conventional show, as their half-hour set was all about previewing Free Dimensional. And while Diamond Rings fans who were won over by his distinctive baritone, future-first style, and danceable anthems are well attended to, long-time fans might be pleasantly surprised how much O’Regan allows his rock roots – impeccably coiffed and styled they might be – to show. At its best moments, which proudly echo the likes of Pet Shop Boys or New Order in their shine and sparkle, songs like “Runaway Love” and “I’m Just Me” make you wonder what The D’Urbs might have sounded like had O’Regan brought them along on his glam-synth journey rather than taking it solo. We might yet find out, as Matters is still technically an ongoing concern, but it’s hard to imagine O’Regan being able to trade in his Diamond Rings outfits back in for the plaid shirt and Jays cap too soon.

Diamond Rings has another local appearance on September 9 at the Sony Centre as part of Elton John’s Fashion Cares extravaganza, but those waiting for a regular, proper show will have to wait until they’re done supporting Stars across the US in September and October, but the fact that those dates wrap up right before the new record comes out can’t be a coincidence. Hometown record release show, anyone?

Exclaim was also on hand (and enjoying the hors d’oeurves), The Globe & Mail and Seattle Weekly have interviews and Boing Boing just made one of the songs from the new record available to download.

Photos: Diamond Rings @ The Drake Underground – August 23, 2012
MP3: Diamond Rings – “I’m Just Me”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Mellow Doubt”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Wait And See”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
Video: Diamond Rings – “I’m Just Me”
Video: Diamond Rings – “You And Me”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Show Me Your Stuff”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Wait & See”
Video: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”

Speaking of Stars, their new album The North is up to stream over at NPR. It’s out September 4 and they open up for Metric at The Air Canada Centre on November 24.

MP3: Stars – “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It”
MP3: Stars – “The Theory Of Relativity”
Stream: Stars / The North

Pitchfork talks to A.C. Newman about his new solo record Shut Down The Streets. It’s out October 9 and he plays Lee’s Palace on October 21.

Spinner chats with Dan Mangan and The Calgary Herald talks to Nils Edenloff of The Rural Alberta Advantage. The two of them play The Danforth Music Hall on October 25.

Halfway House has a video session with Patrick Watson, back in town at Massey Hall on December 6.

Rolling Stone compiles what is known about the next Neil Young & Crazy Horse album Psychedelic Pill, which is due out sometime in October. They are at The Air Canada Centre on November 24.

And not that you should need extra incentive to support HeroHill in his Ride To Conquer Cancer, but the good people at New Scotland Records are giving away to one donor a prize pack consisting of their full label catalog on CD *and* vinyl and with everything that Joel Plaskett is involved in autographed by the man himself. It’s a hell of a prize and oh yeah, you’re also helping fight cancer. You know, cancer. That thing that sucks incredibly hard.

By : Frank Yang at 8:32 am
Category: Concert Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post5 Responses.
  1. C. says:

    Not only was Tim Bruton of the D’Urbs on guitar, but Greg Santilly was on drums!

  2. Frank Yang says:

    oh neat. I know Tim by sight, but not Greg – and the uniforms didn’t help.

  3. Diamond Rings Cover Teenage Fanclub “Mellow Doubt” « Rock God Cred says:

    […] Click here to go to Chromewaves to check Diamond Rings cover Teenage Fanclub “Mellow Doubt” Share this:TwitterStumbleUponFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  4. K says:

    Also wanted to mention that it was Santilly on drums!

  5. Frank Yang says:

    okay, yeah – just referenced the last time I shot D’Urbs/Matters and I should have recognized the moustache. is he going to keep playing with DR?