By Jordan Walsh
Dowsing’s untitled third album, also referred to as Okay, starts off with a commonly heard dictum—“Punk is dead.” Main vocalist Erik Hunter Czaja immediately shows off a little more grit in his voice than before, and this is par for the course with pretty much every other element of the record. The Chicago native band hasn’t released a full-length record since 2013’s I Don’t Even Care Anymore, and in the relative eternity of three years, the band has clearly been focused on upping the ante. While the band’s previous two records have veered more closely to the emo side of the spectrum, Okay is decidedly punk, sonically. Dowsing takes this transition in stride, making it sound like punk was always boiling under the surface during their time on staple emo revival label Count Your Lucky Stars. The switch to Asian Man Records puts the band more in line with like-minded bands like Joyce Manor and Spraynard who at one point populated Asian Man’s roster, DIY emo acts that favor power over melancholy.
But Dowsing doesn’t shed the honest and personal lyrical element of their music just because they’re getting louder. That earlier lyric, “Punk is dead,” is immediately given the addendum, “and all your friends will be too.” Opener “Wasted On Hate” is bursting at the seams with energy, foregoing the emptier portions of earlier records in favor of loud and fast jamming. It’s nearly possible to hear a lively crowd in the room with them, hopping and shouting along in the chaos. Giving these personal tunes a bombastic makeover adds a cathartic and anthemic element to Dowsing’s songs, and it works for them.
Mostly, though, Okay is just an addictive and catchy record that is primed for the warmer weather. Lead single “Kept Me Around” is chock full of hooks, not the least of which is the memorable one-liner of “I thought I found/ something I could get used to in you.” The band has a knack for turning predictable lyrics on their head, adding a little something here and there that brings cliché back down to earth, making for a bittersweet, tongue-in-cheek message. “Born To Soar” twists honest optimism into something a little darker: “No one’s telling you what to do/ for the first time in a long time… you’re going on and on and on about it in your head.” Dowsing turns freedom from supervision into anxiety over the lack of a safety net. This balance makes “Born To Soar,” and the rest of Okay, a wonderfully accurate soundtrack to the difficult process of growing up.
Okay doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but at less than 30 minutes, no one’s asking for that. The record whizzes by like a big burst of punk energy. For all of its lyrical sadness and anxiety, Dowsing’s latest is comforting in its wall of sound and lasting hooks.
Jordan Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.