Published on May 21st, 2011 | by Jim Dalrymple0
Living On the Other Side, The Donkeys
San Diego-based group The Donkeys bluster through their sophomore effort on the echo-y sound waves of a worn humbucker. Released in 2008, Living On the Other Side was the first thing I’d heard from the band after coincidentally discovering them while driving around and listening to KRCL (Salt Lake City’s only real music radio station). When I got to wherever I was going, I forgot whatever I was supposed to be doing and looked the group up. And I’ve been listening to them ever since.
The record begins with “Gone Gone Gone,” a rhythmic, country-time-esque lament that is at once nostalgic and surprisingly cheerful. It revels in popular music’s folky heritage, while remaining sufficiently electrified to avoid the cliché of coming off as “retro.”
Next up, “Walk Through a Cloud” takes on the same lyrical subject matter — literally being “gone” — but is faster and more clean cut. If rock ‘n’ roll can manage to be wholesome and exciting at the same time, this song does it.
The album progresses along a rugged path, emotionally traversing peaks and valleys. “Dolphin Center” and “Traverse Wine” are slow and sorrowful. “Pretty Thing” and “Bye Bye Bye” speed things up — the former kinetic enough to dance to. Later tracks like “Nice Train” are nearly mod, and definitely modern. By the final number, “Excelsior Lady,” the album has firmly cemented itself in the now oft-overlooked region of soulful rock.
If the album deserves any criticism, it might be that the sound doesn’t always cohere smoothly. One track feels a little bit country; the next abruptly next rock ‘n’ roll. But each song is warm — music to listen to with friends outdoors after a long day — and a good example of what can be done with a genre sometimes prematurely considered inert. Throughout the record, the guitars and keys blend early art rock with dive bar soul, while the rhythm section thumps along like it was plucked out of a jug band.
The Donkeys — which, given both their vintage and rural inspiration, have aptly named themselves — have released two other albums, including Born With Stripes earlier this year. I haven’t made it through the newer record yet, but what I have heard is exciting and more modern sounding.
No matter how it turns out, Living On the Other Side has left me yearning to hear more. ♦ ♦ ♦
“Walk Through A Cloud,” The Donkeys
Jim Dalrymple writes about crime for the Daily Herald, based in Utah. He also is a culture writer for Revolv Magazine and Rhombus Online Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @jimmycdii.