Monday, August 27th, 2012
Diamond Rings at The Drake Underground in Toronto
Frank 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?
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”
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.