Dark Blue follow up their debut LP, ‘Pure Reality’ (Jade Tree), with ‘Start Of The World’ (12XU) – a soundtrack of a decaying United States. Each song drips with the realities of atrocities happening all around us ; John Sharkey III (Vocals, Guitar) pushes Dark Blue far beyond the post-punk meets oi sound they perfected on their earlier releases, and adds elements of brit-pop and shoegaze. Recorded by Jeff Zeigler (Kurt Vile, Nothing), ‘Start Of The World’ is a pop album that makes no apologies.
Boot stomping opener “Union of Buffoons,” sets the political tone for this album with an anthem for workers’ rights. Sharkey’s biting lyrics: “You can’t fight this, you can’t win…screw you once, they’ll screw you twice,” is a reference to human expendability in the face of deregulation and the stagnancy of labor rights. “Never Wanted to Hurt You” is a pop song in the highest order with guts and an undeniable chorus that would make Noel Gallagher jealous even at his most jaded.
The 50’s doo-woop and surf rock sound of “Bombs on the Beach” initially feels like a left turn for the band, evoking a playful innocence against a sunny backdrop. But the lyrics prove this is truly a Dark Blue song, tearing through any cheerfulness as jarring and abrupt as words can be to describe the reality of dropping missiles on a beach of unsuspecting Palestinian children. Sharkey’s voice is heavy with the despair of survivor’s guilt: “Now I’m holding my baby’s hand, as he lies bleeding to death in the sand.” This is another pointed song full of sentiment as much as it is an impassioned call for accountability for the crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip.
While this album shows off new and varying degrees of Sharkey’s vocal intensity, Andrew Mackie Nelson (Bass, Ceremony) and Michael Sneeriger (Drums, Strand of Oaks) shine, guiding the songs in ways other releases haven’t shown before . Tracks such as “Be Gone Everyone” and “Western Front” underscore just how comfortable the band has gotten.
‘Start Of The World’ is the kind of record that Dark Blue has always promised: a collection of smart, fully realized songs that tell real stories. With the world falling apart around us, Dark Blue continues to give voice to neglected perspectives, many unnerving but all necessary to hear. We need a defiant record like this to remind us that just as there was start to all of this destruction, there can also be an end. – Sean Gray.