w/Glass Candy, Chromatics
Sun July 17, Crocodile, 9 pm, $7.
As Fierce as they may have hoped to appear in costumes of black leather and come-hither snarls, a lot of popular '80s rock was, at heart, all about that creamy, nougaty pop center. Yeah, you can ride a Harley on stage, flash all the pyrotechnics you like, and generally twist the panties of Bible thumpers into new bouquets with your imagery, but plenty of tough-looking characters created choruses so catchy, cheerleaders could form pyramids around them at pep rallies.
Diamond Nights are all too familiar with confectionizing hard rock, having earlier this year released an excellent debut EP, Once We Were Diamonds, that sprinkles sweetener on galloping twin-lead guitars, lyrics like "never thought that a popsicle chick could taste so good," and delivering deep, libidinous sighs. The band conjures fond memories of Thin Lizzy, Billy Idol, and Cheap Trick without wallowing in nostalgia, seamlessly traversing decades as easily as frontman Morgan Phalen travels a female-friendly landscape (in the occasional rock falsetto). Invitations to mess around ("Destination Diamonds") and calls for every night to be Saturday candy coat songs with a purely celebratory finish, as do the infectious vintage keyboard riffs straight from the theme song for, Phalen jokingly suggests, "escaping in a rocket ship from a planet at war."
"We set out to make sugary songs," the singer explains. "Have you seen that Judas Priest record Turbo? These fingernails [wrap] around a dripping ice cream cone and it's kind of psychedelic looking. I always liked the juxtaposition of an image like that with hard, heavier music."
Never mind that Turbo is one of Judas Priest's more maligned releases—Diamond Nights aren't aiming for lite-metal irony (nor are they to be confused with the Neil Diamond tribute of the same name). They're interested in "putting all of our musical inklings into a sing-along-able format. And those things range from heavy metal to '70s rock to '80s pop music," says Phalen of band mates drummer Tim Traynor, co-guitarist Rob Laakso, and bassist S. D. Rumsey. "I feel like an overlooked way of synthesizing those elements is in a pop format."
On their EP and this fall's fantastic upcoming Popsicle full-length—both out on Kemado Records—much of that synthesis centers on fusing Diamond Dave lyrics to Phil Lynott melodies, a marriage that comes naturally in the New York band's songs. "I'm a huge Thin Lizzy fan," says Phalen. "Their kind of musicality is missing in music, where instruments are choreographed together; that was a great time in rock 'n' roll, when the guitar got such center stage. Having two guitars working in that fashion kind of absolved the wanky guitar solo, too."
While the guitars (and high-spirited harmonies) wail in tandem, images of preventing reason from interrupting lust run rampant through the songs. "Saturday Fantastic" warns that grasping hold of the now is of utmost importance, as Phalen sounds out an impatient last call, "Let's get it started when it's got to start and not just whenever/Woah, I said the sooner the better... another minute and I might be gone."
"Love and girls are universal timeless concepts," Phalen explains (after noting that his girlfriend has pointed out the number of songs about women penned by the Nights). "Everybody is always talking about sex and love, and yet the music around us doesn't represent it terribly well. Van Halen did a great job of indulging that to the max, and even sappy love songs from like Air Supply did great job of indulging the simplest high school way of looking at love—which is something nobody really grows out of."
But Diamond Nights aren't all cold, hard crushes—there are the offbeat one-liners tossed in to throw off categorization (the upcoming snaky disco track, "Drip Drip," which rhymes "dance floor" with "Kandahar"). And both live and on record, the band also allow room for introspective ballads and hints of smoking Sabbath heaviness. All of which makes for a dynamic package that treats every song as a precious endeavor, placing a high price on those incredible pop hooks, wherever in the rock spectrum they may land. "We just have bad ADD," Phalen jokes, "and we always have to change it up and reintroduce ourselves. That's how we originally called ourselves Diamonds—every song is treated like the best and final song we're going to write." Thankfully for us, there's more gems to come.■