As the drummer for the Smithereens, Dennis Diken’s taken both a figurative and literal backseat to the songwriting and singing of Pat DiNizio. But Diken’s a drummer with a lot of melody in him, as his first solo album so amply shows. Paired with multi-instrumentalist Pete DiBella, Diken not only keeps time but sings most of the leads and backgrounds and co-wrote all thirteen of these throwback pop tunes. Diken draws from the same mid-60s millieu as DiNizio’s Beatle-esque songs for the Smithereens, but he leans more heavily on the mod sounds of the Creation and the Who, the pre-orchestral Moody Blues, the California beach sounds of Gary Usher, the harmonies of the Beach Boys, Raspberries, and Association, and the studio production of Brian Wilson.
The Brian Wilson motifs are particularly striking on the questioning “Standing in Line” which could pass for a long-lost Pet Sounds outtake were it not an original composition. The pleading “Fall Into Your Arms” and alluring “Temptation Cake” further echo the Beach Boys, but also the jazz harmonies from which Brian Wilson drew inspiration. Diken takes inspiration from the Who’s “Bucket T” with the full-kit drumming and power harmonies of “Long Lonely Ride,” and the insistent bass and slashing guitar chords of “The Sun’s Gonna Shine in the Morning” are pure UK freakbeat. Diken and DiBella offer up the good time vibe of the Lovin’ Spoonful, by way of Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” on “Let Your Loved One Sleep” and they dabble in breezy Brazilian easy listening on “Lost Bird.”
The ballads seem more modern on the surface, but are laced with vintage totems of mellotron, electric sitar, French horn, harpsichord, and a variety of electric pianos and organs, suggesting long-lost album tracks by the Electric Prunes. Guest appearances by Andy Paley, Jason Falkner, members of Brian Wilson’s backing band, the Wondermints, and Wilson’s one time side project, the Honeys, are complemented by lesser-known (but no less talented) figures of the retro pop scene, including one-time Optic Nerve keyboardist Dave Amels, producer/musician Andrew Sandoval, and Los Angeles drummer Nelson Bragg. That Diken can sing is no shock to Smithereens fans, but the completeness of his vision as a singer, songwriter and bandleader is a welcome surprise. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]