Album review: De’Wayne – Stains
This ride on the corona-coaster has been 18 months and counting, with moods and self-worth the subject of endless twists and down turns. It’s more important than ever, then, to latch on to ways to successfully galvanise ourselves, to lift morale and supplement the spirit. Music is a key source of inspiration, of course, though even tried and tested favourites may have undergone something of a shift in our affections, hitting differently as their association becomes indelibly linked with a period of anxiety and uncertainty longer than most.
Thank God, then, for De’Wayne, who on Radio-Active proclaims himself a ‘Young Kurt Cobain coming up’ and whose debut album brims with the kind of contagious confidence that electrifies the human spirit. Stains, if you’ll excuse the obvious joke, will leave a mark on you, through a set of songs unremitting in their urgency and potency. While it’s not quite fair to say that heavy topics are lightly brandished, even when De’Wayne is dealing with serious subject matter, as on opener National Anthem, with its focus on being a young Black man in America (‘They tell you don’t move and just put your hands up’), his treatment is brisk and energised; he wants to sweep the listener up, not get them down. It’s a creative decision that works – you want our protagonist to win; you’re his cheerleader, and he’s absolutely yours.
This ability to transform hard-bitten experience into joyous escapism wouldn’t work if, musically, proceedings weren’t compelling. Thankfully they are because they’re teeming with the best characteristics of other genres – the pace of pop-punk, the braggadocio of rap – and festooned with loveable idiosyncrasies (including what sounds like a sample from the old school Donkey Kong game during I Know Something).
Admittedly, not everything is so revelatory – Super 8’s lyrical fixation with filming porn on the retro 8mm film format being one of them. But for the most part, Stains makes its juggling of identify, ambition, self-belief and self-empowerment seem easy. And it doesn’t scrimp on the tunes either.
Stains is out now via Hopeless Records.
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