Lil Daggers are a band that have always interested me, but never enticed me. You know, the kind of group that make music that you have consistently enjoyed but never felt any great need to seek out. That feeling is over, and this review should go towards explaining that. I don’t go into a lot of detail about it, but I think my comment about the best comparison for Lil Daggers being Timber Timbre is the crux of my review, but that would only make sense to anyone who had talked to me about Timber Timbre so I had to cut that down a little, given that it was written for DIY. The point is that both of those bands have an ability to create atmosphere, but without stumbling into cliché – it’s music drawn from the past but subverted, as if seen through a slightly warped mirror. That for me is the ultimate trick – that ability to make old seem new is such a stumbling block for many that those who pass over it are pretty special in my eyes (ears).
Borrowing from the past is all well and good, but you have to know how to use what you’ve taken. In an “alternative music culture” awash with bands simply plonking a synth line or seven onto a track and calling it ‘80s, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there’s actually talent in knowing how to use previous generations’ talents. Miami five-piece Lil Daggers have that, and in spades, and flaunt it proudly (and loudly) on their debut full-length. It just might not be what you expect.
Lil Daggers is a Frankenstein’s monster of an album, the band having violently desecrated the corpses of rock’s back catalogue and brought it juddering to life. ‘Slave Exchange’ shambles on a current of louche cool torn from The Idiot before revealing its decaying classic rock heart with a jolting guitar solo, ‘Pair of Lives’ is the spectre of some long forgotten campfire singalong twisted into a minor key and, frankly, we don’t even know what ‘Ghost Herd’ is, but it sounds like the soundtrack for something heard through the TV from Poltergeist – not to mention eventually fading into white noise itself.
That feeling of horror is no mistake either, with Lil Daggers invoking the same spirit, if not sound, of bands like Timber Timbre, shown in an ability to conjure up a sense of the macabre without contrivance. Reuben Molinares’ sharp shivers of Hammond organ, able to pierce even the thickest fog of guitar noise, form the backbone of the creeping dread that envelops the album, but Johnny Saraiva’s distant, detached vocals on ‘Dead Golden Girls’ and the nocturnal production work on ‘Strange Wolf’ certainly do their bit along the way. It’s a tactic that, for the most part, does away with the major problem that comes along with recycling the past – this doesn’t sound like something we’ve heard before, despite drawing on exactly what we recognise as a component part of its charm. More straightforward efforts like ‘Dada Brown’ do lack that same spark, and the middle section sags somewhat, but those moments of real reinvention stand out all the more for it.
Lil Daggers, then, reveal that the trick to borrowing older styles is to give them a new style of their own. This album isn’t just a throwback, it’s a gleefully sadistic reinvention; the Buffalo Bill of the music world, taking and wearing the skin of its forebears. And, just like the best horror movies, we want to turn away and just can’t. This is fascinating.
Lil Daggers – Dead Golden Girls