Dugong – Hat Danko

Hat Danko

The whole concept of emo as a genre now feels like something firmly rooted in the first year or two of the 21st century. The style – epitomized by driving yet melodic guitars, post-hardcore aggression yet a sense of melody, plaintive and emotional vocals and lyrics, complex and intricate rhythms – is almost non-existent these days, washed out into bland pop-punk or faded into some sort of complex post-rock that’s more likely to include cello than two talented guitarists. And while many bands who played the style wince visibly at the name, it was still something beautiful and important for the time.
That’s why I’m so enamored with Hat Danko, the second album from Yorkshire, UK band Dugong. It has absolutely all the makings of the emo genre, from talented guitarists, drummer, and bassist to the slightly off-key vocals. It’s powerful and energetic, yet not derivative of the genre. In fact, it’s done so well, you don’t care that it’s not the most unique style in the world. This band breathes fresh air into the style, makes it all their own, and you almost feel like you’re hearing it for the first time again.
“What would it matter if you loved me and left me / like I thought you would,” sings Matt Broadbent on the perfect “Tonight This is Perfect,” a fantastic rock song regardless of the genre, as infectious as it is powerful. Broadbent’s cracking voice in the mid-song breakdown may not be pretty, but it’s perfectly fitting, and he knows how to convey emotion, even whispering the song title at one point before the song blasts back into energy and power.
While that may be my favorite song on the album, it’s not the only good one. Every other track here is nearly as good. The guitars are powerful, the drums just as good, and Broadbent’s voice gives the tunes the emotional intensity fans of the style crave. “It’s all right now / I’m tired and I’m broken / I’m so sorry now,” Broadbent sings on “Vital Loop,” a song that has a perfect and catchy breakdown that may be the best vocal moments on the whole album, and the more intense screams here fit just as well. A bit more laid-back, “Human Fade” has fantastic bass and a nice pace, and when Broadbent sings “There must be more to life than this” on “And Now We Are Men,” I feel him perfectly.
“But I’m sorry / I am what I am,” he sings in perhaps his best singing here on the stellar “The More Rivers You Cross the More You Know about Rivers,” perhaps the most emotionally charged track on this album despite it’s rather overt title. While softer at many moments, it’s the most punk track here as well in its faster times. And it flows nicely into “The Legs That Carried Him,” which maybe has the best guitars – driving and powerful one moment, melodic and pretty the next – on Hat Danko. It’s almost ironic when Broadbent sings, “And I am getting too old for all of this” on “They Never Saw the Magic,” a very powerful song with some very pretty guitar and rhythm work on it (as the band is very young). This would likely count as the album’s climax in a brilliant assault of rhythm and melody and energy.
Dugong reminds me quite a bit of Spy Vs. Spy, another British emo band that was tragically overlooked. These musicians have been playing together for more than five years now, and it’s completely evident. They’re tight as hell, precise with their style, and easily the most talented emo band I’ve heard in years. I completely forgot how much I loved this style until Hat Danko came into my hands, and all I can say is thank you, Dugong.