Dumb Numbers, the brainchild of Adam Harding, casts its arms wide, drawing in the talents of diverse musicians – including David Yow, Dale Crover and Lou Barlow among others – along with numerous recognisable influences, then pulls them in close until they become a single (in)harmonious sound.
With so much of the U.S. alt. rock scene in thrall to doom or drone, Dumb Numbers remain a vital presence given their willingness to magpie from those genres while always emerging with a catchiness and a pop-edge that keeps everything crackling with loose energy. The result is a blend of exhilarating rock cuts and glowering deep dives with a couple of synapse-frying acid trips thrown in for good measure. It’s a skilful balancing act to be so expansive on an album that only extends to eight tracks: careful sequencing showcases the diverging instincts at work while lacing together the results via enduring moods and emotions.
Harding’s voice is the most recognizable unifier, tending to double his vocals to rather gorgeous effect – imagine someone dueting with their doppelganger across some vast canyon. A further tendency is the mixing of his voice down amid the instruments where it merges into the sound, soaring briefly on certain words or phrases, before always sinking back into the churning surface of the music. Lyrical concerns reinforce the sense that this is a record of spiritual highs and lows; on ‘Will You Earn a *’ the hard rocking vibe is unsettled when one realizes the presence of confessional lines like “It’s 25 years today since daddy hauled ass away, that’s when the nightmares truly began…” ‘Girl On The Screen’ (a definite highlight) reemerges with the hopefulness of “I feel safe when I’m with you…” over an impressively compact post-rock sturm und drang of the kind Mogwai kindle at their best. The cello-laced burn of ‘Wonder Why’ makes this duality explicit as it ponders moments where one “can’t think about tomorrow, of how the end will be, but I woke up today and I’m feeling OK…” That enduring mood of up/down smiles and frowns give the music space to roam – to rock hard, slow, heavy, featherlight – without ever derailing the trip we’re all on which ends with the meditative near-nine-minute closure of ‘Sometimes There’s No Next Time.’
II is a likeable record that leaves you warm inside and hoping that Dumb Numbers do see something in the future; that there’s a next time worth seizing and holding onto for dear life.