Most of us have lists in our heads of “most under-rated bands”. D:A:D – Disneyland After Dark – are at the very top of mine.
I interviewed the Danes back in 1989 when they visited Australia on a promotional tour for No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims, their big American ‘breakthrough’ album. In fact, the breakthrough was extremely modest, although “Sleeping My Day Away” still gets airplay on specialist stations in the US like Sirius XM’s Hair Nation.
Like a lot of acts who have “escaped” international recognition but flourished in rich local soil – witness Powderfinger, for instance – these lads’ artistic and creative evolution has not been sullied by the demands of suits from London or LA. They had enough success to encourage, not enough to ruin. D:A:D craft hard rock songs that are musically almost perfect and lyrics that boast a sardonic wit that should embarrasses those of us who claim English as a first language. Is there a better summation of this social media-obsessed world than “Winning hearts and turning heads/A simple beast that must be fed” at the start of “Breaking Them Heart by Heart”?
D:A:D are not allowed to call themselves Disneyland After Dark due to the threat of a legal suit by Disneyland itself in the late 1980s so this album title is a cheeky way around that. Dic.Nii.Lan.Daft.Erd.Ark is actually a little less even than its predecessor, Monster Philosophy, and would have perhaps been enhanced by losing a track or two. But when the Binzer brothers (singer Jesper and guitar whiz Jacob), bassist Stig Pederson and drummer Laust Sonne hit the mark, they do so spectacularly.
“A New Age Moving In” opens this platter with impressive bluster, Pederson’s two-string bass to the fore and “I Want What She Got” is a classy, brothel-creeping opening single. It’s the guitar fills that give D;A:D and incomparable wide-screen feel, something that few bands today manage aside from perhaps Foo Fighters’ and Metallica’s dramatics at their best. “The End” is reminiscent of their heaviest, most discordant offering, 1995’s Helpyourselfish – but it still has an instantly memorable chorus.
Things go up a notch with the perfect hard rock of “Fast On Wheels”. D:A:D once wrote a song with the diametrically opposite viewpoint: “The Road Below Me”. That was about moving, this is about discovering the charms of stopping. And it’s utterly engaging, with the sort of playing we often associate with “alternative” rock and perfectly executed vocal melodies.
“The Place of the Heart” is much like the the first three loud-fast-loud-fast offerings but the real pearl of Dic.nii.Land.Daft.Erd.Ark is “Last Time In Neverland”. Lyrically, this could be the wild twin of D:A:D standard “Grow or Pay”, a tale of being full of hubris but knowing adulthood is about to kick in whether you like it or not. “This could be the last chance to die young!” it wails defiantly. Musically, it’s a monster – crashing drums, insidious bassline, garage-y feel and all.
The third true gem comes straight away: “Breaking Them Heart by Heart” melds all of D:A:D’s influences – pop rock, cow punk in the fills, sprawling arena metal. And it adds to this genuine pathos and emotion – enough to give this reviewer goosebumps. The piano-tinged “We All Fall Down” was recently turned into a video and is a nice enough ballad, “Wild Thing in the Woods” could have been omitted at no great loss, “I Can’t Explain” is in the same boat, but “Drag Me to the Curve” is a fantastic, ballsy rocker. “Your Lips are Sealed”, a low-slung lament, finishes things off nicely with some razor-sharp lyrics like: “You forget the truth and miss your train of thought”
The great thing about discovering a band a quarter-century into its career is you have the whole back catalogue to explore. D:A:D are only under-rated by those who haven’t heard them.
1. A New Age Moving In
2. I Want What She’s Got
3. The End
4. Fast on Wheels
5. The Place of the Heart
6. Last Time in Neverland
7. Breaking Them Heart by Heart
8. We All Fall Down
9. Wild Thing in the Woods
10. Can’t Explain What it…
11. Drag Me to the Curb
12. Your Lips are Sealed