Given that the band was born as an affirmation of life energy and an outlet for raw emotional expression, maybe it’s inevitable that Toronto rockers Dearly Beloved would answer the weird silence of global pandemic with a roar. The relentless noisemakers emerge from two years of lockdown with the vivid, bracing Walker Park (out Jan 24, 2023 on Sonic Unyon Records).
A bioluminescent 10-song set, the album is the band’s follow-up to Times Square Discount, which was released in late October 2019, just before the world closed in on itself. Where Times Square Discount was conceived on the road, by a band that had logged hundreds of tho1usands of miles of touring around the planet, the songs of Walker Park were spawned in the first year of the pandemic at Phoebe Street, the home studio of DB frontman Rob Higgins. Writing and recording these songs was a process Higgins describes as deeply cathartic.
The band’s self-described “barrage rock” is both a clever bit of wordplay and a pithy statement of intent rooted in bedrock truth. For the past 16 years, the Beloveds’ collision and fusion of pop and hardcore sensibilities, melody and menace, has offered up unabashed stoner rock sensibilities coiled like smoke around a magma core of psychedelic post-grunge. Walker Park anchors itself in the lessons learned over a 16-year career and launches the band on an exciting new trajectory.
“The songs started as super long bass and drum jams I built myself at home,” explains Higgins. “I’d play for like 15 minutes and record it all. Then I’d go looking for good bits. Once whittled into a form I’d send the song to the band to freak out on.” Of 16 finished tracks arising from those sessions, 10 eventually coalesced as Walker Park, with songs selected to reflect the zeitgeist in a cohesive way while also communicating a narrative arc.
“Amid the personal and collective challenges in 2020, I felt incredibly fortunate to have a home with the means to further explore the crafts of playing, writing and recording music as well as the time to do that in a consistent and substantial way, ” says Higgins, who used that amorphous time to teach himself studio mix engineering, allowing him to craft a DB album with unprecedented freedom, mixing with the help of bandmate and Slow Pineapple production partner Tyler Beans. That latitude also meant that he had an auteur’s command of the process from start to finish. With his Phoebe Street studio used as an instrument unto itself, the session delivers thematic ambition, sonic verve, and evocative playing in spades, while never skimping on the scorched-earth riffs. The work and craft that went into the album also conveys the deeply weird world in which it was spawned. “Listening back now, the record appears to reflect the absurdity of those times.”
Opening with a nocturnal groover of a title track, Walker Park ramps up through the thundering blood-beat of “Trees Dream of You”, before launching the adrenalized assault of “Explosions” (a full-throttle take on the Devo deep cut). Higgins’ sinuous virtuoso bass lines, a mainstay of Dearly Beloved’s catalogue, thread the session together, colouring the introspective “I Was Here”, underpin the knifing riffwork of “Spectator Sports” and the face-melting rock exorcism of “All Hat”. The beaming “Let’s Make This Easy”, which emerged from a window-side acoustic exploration, is memorably muscled up with drums, bass and a hot-wire solo. Darkly surreal nugget “Husband-Shaped Man” is a studio workout framing a sweetly eerie lyric. Icily evocative “Late Great Lake Skate” is an epic, cinematic piece. Gently psych-tinged album closer “It Would Be Thank You” rolls in like a golden tide of cosmic gratitude.
Dearly Beloved described their 2006 debut album You Are The Jaguar as “chaos tempered with love and delivered with great fury,” and its release heralded the arrival of a fearsome group of rock’s true believers, a critical assessment underlined by 2008’s Repo Repo Repo and 2010’s Make It Bleed. Follow-up long-players Hawk vs. Pigeon (2012) and Enduro (2014) emerged from desert sessions at Joshua Tree’s infamous Rancho de la Luno studio, a creative cauldron that catalyzed the band’s mind-bending melange of stoner/shoegaze/psych/prog/punk influences into a supernatural sonic stew and elevated their game as a band. On Admission, which followed in 2016, the band drilled its songs with maniacal zeal before bottling that energy in a two-week recording blitz with Daniel Rey at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606. The searing live intensity of those pivotal releases was melded with a subversive pop-savvy bent on Times Square Discount. And all of those experiences have culminated in the haunted, kaleidoscopic Walker Park.
The band’s ass-shaking, fist-pumping, skull-rattling skronk — so marrow-deep that even global cataclysm could not root it out — is informed by a collective pedigree in various indie rock outfits and years spent ploughing through tour dates around the planet. Since focusing its touring energy outside of Canada a decade ago, DB has become that band that has made seven albums in 15 years and toured 28 countries. When headlining acts and music fans experience it live for the first time they are left feeling like they’ve just witnessed the best support act they’ve seen in ages, and wonder how it is that they've never heard of them.
A sweaty, noisy mix of rock n’ roll, hardcore, punk, prog, psych, and sludge influences, Dearly Beloved lives to make records and tour. The band has racked up an impressive resumé as road dogs, supporting artists like Swervedriver, Juliette Lewis and the Licks and Sloan on national tours of Canada, the US and the UK, and collaborating with with riff wizards like Dave Catching (Queens of the Stone Age), Chris Goss (Masters of Reality), Patrick Pentland (Sloan), Dave Elitch (The Mars Volta), Dimitri Coates (OFF!, Burning Brides), and Care Failure (Die Mannequin). With extensive global tour dates proposed to support the new album, Dearly Beloved’s rock-solid rep is sure to stand tall in the spotlight with the release of Walker Park.
Rob Higgins - vocals, bass guitar
Niva Chow - vocals
KT Lamond - guitar, vocals
Dave Casey - guitar, vocals
Clare Macdonald - drums
Tyler Beans - Rhodes, Mellotron, samples