I first became aware of Dick Dent about a decade ago when he was in the lo-fi duo Yoofs with his twin brother Michael. They appeared like a breath of fresh air, when guitar music was stagnant. They gave us hope in kids with guitars in bedrooms making music for their enjoyment. Since then, Yoofs have come and gone, sadly, and he’s been the bassist in the underrated, and largely ignored, The Death of Pop. Now he’s stepped out of the shadows and has released his debut album Life’s Hard.
Instead of a wall of woozy guitars, Dent has delivered eight songs drenched in neon synths, backed by stark drums. But after a few moments of recalibration you realise that Life’s Hard isn’t just the strongest thing Dent has released, but its one of 2020’s strongest releases. Musically the album has more in common with 80s synth pop than Pavement. As usual his stories of love, loss and redemption have a habit of speaking directly to you, while not giving much away.
The standout tracks on the album are ‘I’ve Heard it all Before’ and ‘Reject’. ‘I’ve Heard it All Before’ is a brooding four and a half minutes rammed full of catchy synths and glacial drums as Dent’s vocals effortlessly croon “I’ve heard it all before”. And yes, we have heard it all before. The nods to Human League/Depeche Mode are there but Dent manages to make them feel fresh and exciting, rather than cliched. ‘Reject’ is an instrumental. Not that unusual, but you only realise this after the song has finished. Throughout Dent manages to pique our interest through clever motifs and rich textures of sound. After re-listening to it you don’t even miss the lyrics, instead you secretly wish he’d put another instrumental on.
After listening to Life’s Hard I am reminded how I originally felt about Yoofs. While musically they might be contrasting, they do contain the same elements that gave me hope in the next wave of musicians. Life’s Hard is dripping in catchy melodies and glorious solos. This is an album that you can easily put on repeat and lose five hours just lying there and listening. It’s an album that shows that Dent has been learning every time he’s gone into the studio, either with his brother or The Death of Pop, as the songs are light years away from where he started.