Love Jail

The rocknroll chuggers move west to LA and find sunshine, warm breezes

Does the roadtrip still mean anything? Maybe its commercialisation and fetishisation have exhausted the very idea, made the roadtrip a cliche rather than a means for personal growth or understanding the world. But Dommengang’s ‘Lovely Place’ – the second track on this, their second album – says different.

On this track, a psych-blues juggernaut with strong echoes of swaggering Dead Meadow, bassist Brian Markham sings of a breezy, sunny journey down the highway, but then the “preacher on the radio” starts “stirring up the anger”. It culminates with the lines, “Country is torn but it’s still a lovely place to be / With the windows rolled down and the sun in my eyes.”

This idea of seeking solace in trusted, familiar things, while still engaging with more expansive ideas, neatly reflects Love Jail. Dommengang give a strong salute to their 1970s rock forebears but they also offer 21st-century psych-rock fusion in a similar vein to the aforementioned Dead Meadow, Howlin’ Rain and Berlin’s Kadavar, all of whom have married the visceral side of heavy rock with something discerning, melodic and sometimes (arguably) avant garde.

Dommengang’s debut, 2015’s Everybody’s Boogie, was a punkier proposition, channelling the pacy, meat-and-potatoes rock of Ten Years After or Rory Gallagher – something that actually persists on Love Jail’s opener ‘Pastel City’, which is rather too heavy on the boogie-woogie and the ZZ Top influence and lacks atmosphere as a result. The exception on Everybody’s Boogie was the marvellous ‘Her Blues’, a more relaxed and sombre piece. This mood reappears on Love Jail’s title track, a startlingly quiet, pretty song that recalls Ray Raposa’s Castanets, an earlier and woozier psych project Wilson was part of.

This softer side of Dommengang is one shade on an album that is much more varied than its predecessor. ‘Lone Pine’ and ‘Dave’s Boogie’ are desert-rock chuggers; ‘Stealing Miles’ is the closest thing the three-piece come to a conventionally structured song (and another nod to the roadtrip); ‘Going Down Fast’ is slickly produced, suggestive of the banality of an act like The Black Keys.

Dommengang, who recently moved to Los Angeles from their native Brooklyn, are at their most appealing when they allow space and slowness into their muddy and highly refreshing rocknroll. Love Jail is no masterpiece, but Wilson and his bandmates’ instincts are most often good. There are far worse roadtrip companions.

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