Review: John Dellroy Band – “Burning Desire”

The John Dellroy Band has shed some of the rustic, more folksy charm of its first full-length outing, 2013’s A New Life Has Begun, on “Burning Desire,” a new one-shot-and-out single – available now for download and on streaming services – that drops hints about the tone and direction of what might come next. Rumor has it the group has a new record in the works, again with Grammy-nominated producer Peter Roberts at the helm.

The track starts off pretty well, with an angular electric guitar chewing up the scenery with palm-muted notes over below-the-tide synth washes. Vocalist and band namesake John Dellroy, entering the fray after a few measures, adds a kind of maturity to the youthful edge of the opening, his voice, carefully produced but still authentic, a little warbly, with the slightest suggestion of an Old World accent. Daniel Salecich’s violin, a real fixture on past singles, is, sadly, almost nowhere to be seen – or heard.

But the song, for all its aspirations, never fully takes off. What “Burning Desire” intends to do with its overly anthemic chorus – a driving, Foreigner-ish ascent where Dellroy repeatedly belts out the title of the song – backfires, and what is meant to be driving and pulse-quickening instead feels flaccid, almost half-hearted. It doesn’t lack enthusiasm; it just feels a little canned. Unfortunately, the band leans on that choral refrain repeatedly and while, live, it might get the crowd stomping and singing along, the energy just doesn’t translate to the studio recording.

Now, there are plenty of good things to say about Dellroy and his merry band of misfits. While I felt the radio-ready single “She,” a ballad off the band’s first record, was a little bit too polished in parts for its own good – Salecich’s solo work was really that song’s saving grace –much of A New Life Has Begun was really pretty decent, displaying a kind of tonal warmth you don’t often associate with bands reaching for a larger-than-life, arena-filling sound.

On the new song, Dellroy employs a sound we oft could dub “folktronica,” and, while the synth and crystallized ginger guitar work outweigh the more folk-driven acoustic guitar and violin elements prominent on parts of the band’s first record, the term largely fits. But the warmth has gone missing in action. The band still gels, still taps into the same zeitgeist it explored on A New Life Has Begun, but the work is more produced and, like the inhuman buzz of a keyboard, just not as soulful, not as organic. I hope this doesn’t bode poorly for the prospects of a new record, which shouldn’t stray into the cold and calculated instead of tapping into the band’s warmer center, its sense of human interplay. In short, may they discover the way back to the old “New Life” on the rest of the forthcoming LP. – Justin Vellucci, submitted but unpublished, June 11, 2019

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