By Greg Kennelty, July 10, 2017
Dispatch was a huge presence in my life between 2004 and 2012. In my high school and college years, they were the hopelessly romantic soundtrack to long walks with headphones and the relaxing sound to my drives back home from school. I fell off the Dispatch train right around when they released Circles Around The Sun In 2012, though tuning in to America, Location 12 in 2017 just feels like the right time to get back on.
With the passage of time, Dispatch has grown up over the years. Where 2000’s Who Are We Living For? was rife with energetic ballads and protest songs, and 1997’s Bang Bang was a raucous surf party, America, Location 12 showcases a band at peace with where its members are in life. All in their forties, the world has become a much more volatile place since the first three Dispatch albums. America, Location 12 is a sobering look at age, the country we’re living in, and coming to peace with all the problems life throws at you.
As with every previous Dispatch release, the band consists of multi-instrumentalists Chad Urmston, Brad Corrigan, and Pete Francis Heimbold but America, Location 12 is the only Dispatch album to date written entirely by guitarist and vocalist Chad Urmston. If you dig through the credits of the album, you’ll also find Mike Sawitzke, who engineered the soundtrack to Russell Brand’s 2010 film Get Him To The Greek, and who is credited for odd things such as “clapping” and “tom tom engineer.”
- Producer – John Dragonetti, Mike Sawitzke
- Engineer – Duncan Aitken, Mike Sawitzke
- Studios – Bongo Beach Productions, Westport, MA, Panoramic House, Stinson Beach, CA, and Substation Studio, Fife, Scotland
- Release Date – June 2, 2017
- Chart Positions – #80 on US Billboard 200
The artwork for America, Location 12 and its sound match up perfectly. The artwork depicts the band’s three members looking over the California hillside out into the distance; you can almost feel the wind and sun on your skin if you look long enough. Much like the artwork, the album’s sound and overall production sounds positively massive.
Right from the get go, Be Gone, with its fuzzy guitar and extraneous percussion, gives the sense of listening to the band perform its latest album out in a jungle somewhere, or even on the hill on the cover. Usually I’d forgo talking about the production of the album until the end of my review, but America, Location 12 just sounds phenomenally good front to back. The album exudes the energy of a live album, though obviously[JS1] with much more polished and attentive production in terms of reverb application and placing instruments within the soundstage.
Musically, America, Location 12 absolutely differs from its predecessors in that it relies a lot less on catchy choruses, and instead focuses more on each song taking you on a different journey. Where Only The Wild Ones bucks up a tribal feeling all throughout its runtime, Painted Yellow Lines seems to be Dispatch’s take on a modern version of old school country and bluegrass. Neither song has any particular part that gets stuck in my head for days on end, yet I find myself singing bits and pieces of each back to myself from time to time. Not to say songs like Midnight Lorry don’t have a massive hook for a chorus – that one in particular does, and I’m not sure I’ll ever been able to get it or the key change at the end out of my head ever again.
Fantastically human production aside, songwriting and the flow of the album is where America, Location 12 succeeds. It’s a 48 minute long album whose track listing flows incredibly well from one song to the next, in that it doesn’t stay on one mood for too long. Rice Water might be a minor key bummer chugging along at a moderate pace, which then gets immediately contrasted by the smooth sailing of the major key Windylike. It’s also an interesting choice for Dispatch to make the longest song on the album, Be Gone, the opener, though in contrast it gives the rest of the album a sense of movement and brevity – why have some monstrosity of a song hanging over your head as the final track while you’re enjoying the record?
America, Location 12 is an introspective listen that examines life, love, and sorrow from a few different angles that’ll have you hooked from the static-laden start of Be Gone to the final notes of Atticus Cobain. America, Location 12 is best enjoying sitting in your backyard with your favorite, preferably lighter beer under the stars in the summer heat next to your best friend, your significant other, or even your dog.