Neva Dinova, ‘You May Already Be Dreaming’

By • May 20th, 2008 • Category: Album Reviews

Someone get a hold of Dr. Phil, stat. Actually, no, call Doctor Robert, instead. Come to think of it, better get them both on the line. And it couldn’t hurt to also dial up Dr. Feelgood, Dr. John, Dr. Ruth, maybe even Doc Ock, and throw in some Dr. Pepper for good measure.

Neva Dinova’s Jake Bellows needs all the help he can get. From the sound of his band’s third LP, all the Prozac, Lexapro, Paxil, Celexa and Zoloft on the planet won’t be enough to perk his spirits. Then again, the singer probably also is immune to group hugs, cute pictures of kittens, ice cream, cotton candy, winning lottery tickets, sunsets, and good hair days. He’d have to be in order to pen a collection of songs as morose as You May Already Be Dreaming. The Omaha foursome’s Saddle Creek debut is the “ah-ha” moment when you realize that a person isn’t depressed, but rather is plain depressing.

In 2004, Bellows masked his woe-is-me, doomsday mentality to outshine his future labelmates, Bright Eyes, on the One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels split. As foretelling as that EP’s title was, it was easy to chock up lyrics such as “This mess becomes beneath us now/We cannot sweat this poison out/It’s in my skin and in my mouth/And when I sing these lies come out” as being too small a sample size to judge his demeanor. It’s this same benefit of the doubt that made 2005’s The Hate Yourself Change so appealing. Amid atmospheric folk melodies, it didn’t matter that Bellows’ Jeff Buckley-esque voice swooned through the line “The world’s a shitty place/I can’t wait to die” for almost two-and-a-half consecutive minutes. When he sang “And it’s the words you’re after/Watch their meanings shatter/The words break in my ear/I love you but it doesn’t matter,” we could hold out hope that eventually his inner romantic would burst through.

Not anymore; not after half-a-dozen years since the band’s debut LP. This isn’t just a phase; it’s Bellows’ personality. Which is fine, but just hard to get excited about. In doses, maybe these 14 atmospherically murky, lo-fi numbers could inject a moment of self-reflection. One or two of these earthy, Midwestern ditties might keep happy-go-lucky folks in check, and prevent them from getting overly optimistic. Yet at almost 45 minutes, the entirety of You May Already Be Dreaming is enough to make laying on a couch, crying in the fetal position look appealing.

Getting past the song titles “It’s Hard to Love You”, “Funeral Home”, “Apocalypse”, and “Nobody Loves Me” takes its own degree of emotional fortitude. But tracks pining for stormy weather or focused on death, hatred, and lost loves is an experience that tests even the most secure listener. Unfortunately, while his music previously had been able to hide some of his bellyaching, these mundane arrangements leave little to divert the focus from phrases such as “Will the ladies send you flowers when you die?” or “It’s so hard, hard, hard/It’s so hard, hard, hard/It’s so hard to love your body from the ground.” Not surprisingly, those aren’t even from the same song.

Throw in Bellows’ recurring theme of alcoholism, and it’s not only the front man that is left needing a drink. …Maybe a jug of wine.

Soundcheck Magazine, May 2008

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