reviews of Life Like:
reviewed by Ted Rutland (http://argosy.ca/argosy98-99/031199/review/cdreviews.htm)
Arriving in a flash flood of distorted guitar and whiny English vocals, the
next big-time British band is
here. However, while most British bands tend to spring up from Liverpool or London, this
one came all the way from...Santa Monica, California. Or at least that's what they're telling
Listening to Dig's new album, Life Like, follows a four-step progression.
In the first
step, the listener puts on the album and is immediately impressed with multi-layered
psychedelic journey called "Live in Sound". A peaceful piano introduction is nearly lost in
the blanket of distorted and phased guitar before the instrumental layers are peeled away,
one by one, to finish with the lone piano once again. At this point the listener looks at the
CD case to make sure this is Dig and not the Stone Roses.
Upon confirming the identity of the band, the listener reaches step two. This
begins with the second song on the album, "Coming Down", in which the pianos and
massive guitar sound are replaced by poppy-sounding riffs and increasingly whiny vocals.
Singer/guitarist Scott Hackwith demonstrates a second dimension to his songwriting, with
effective volume and tempo changes throughout. At this point the listener is convinced he's
listening to Oasis, and opens the CD player to examine the disc. Nope, it's still Dig.
In the third stage, the listener becomes more savvy. Although the third song,
Fuzz", sounds very much like Teenage Fanclub, the listener resists the urge to check the
CD player again and instead checks the CD booklet to determine what part of England
the band is from. Perhaps the two bands grew up together, he thinks. The listener is
confused and rubs his eyes repeatedly when he reads that the band hails from Santa
In the fourth and final stage, the listener feels somewhat robbed and moderately
upset that a vocalist from California should sing with an English accent. This feeling
eventually evolves into acceptance as the listener sits back and enjoys the rest of the
album. And the album is worthy of acceptance, especially because of the second half,
when many influences are tied in and comparability to any one band dissipates. Although
songs like "Stay on the Grass" and "Situation" are excellent upbeat songs, the band is
equally adept when the tempo is slowed down. In that respect, Dig is comparable with Big
Wreck and the Matthew Good Band.
Regardless of where the band members say they're from, Life Like is
still an album
worth owning. However, this listener is convinced they're lying!
Back in the halcyon days of grunge, Dig was hailed as the "next big
thing." Even Courtney Love said she wished she had written the
band's 1993 hit single "Believe."
Flash to 1999, where plaid shirts and ripped jeans have gone back
to signifying slovenliness rather than hipness. Dig is still around,
having released two albums and an EP since its eponymous debut.
The group's latest outing, Life Like, is another triple guitar attack
that layers fuzz box over distortion pedal and adds a layer of
succinct melodic guitar whining to make it utterly digestible.
Lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Scott Hackwith hasn't wimped out
with a collection of mid-tempo, radio friendly ballads -- Dig still
wants to rock. However, the plaintive acoustic guitar-driven elegy
"I Don't Mind" is a break from the band's usual in-your-face riffing
and stands as a poignant counterpoint. If you're looking to roll
down your windows and put the top down, try the retro guitar of
the opener "Live In Sound," the sedately Dylan-esque title track or
the utterly bouncy "Possibilities."
Life Like will fit into your collection right next to Everclear and the
Foo Fighters' guitar-powered pop-punk roarings.
Nevin Martell (cdnow)
Life Like (Radio Universe/Universal Records)
By: Alex Steininger (http://www.inmusicwetrust.com)
Formed in 1991 after frontman Scott Hackwith
began working on some demo tapes on a
four-track in his garage, Dig soon took shape once
a drummer and a bassist helped add life to the
songs. But, something was still missing. Using
layered guitars on the demos, they needed an
extra guitarist to pull everything off live. They
soon added the second guitarist (they are now a
three-guitar unit) and then the music started to
fully take shape. A combination of hefty pop-rock
hooks and soft pop melodies, the band can jump
into a rocker or a slower, thought-provoking
Their new album, LIFE LIKE, stretches out from
the opening track to the ending track. Never
re-writing the same song on the same album, and
usually jumping into a different style track to
track, the band's fresh perspective keeps the
album interesting and lively.
"All Over You" has a bouncy drum beat combined
with some hook-filled guitar riffs, while "I Don't
Mind" is an acoustic ballad that brings in
orchestration to allow the words to both breathe
and impact. Then there is "The Fuzz" with its
opening organ charm that you won't be able to
resist, and rock/techno/pop feel.
Diverse and eclectic, while still maintaining a
pop-rock foundation on every track, the band
seems eager to test and experiment track to
track. But they never experiment to the point
where it reflects on the music and leaves the
listener out in the cold. I'll give this album a B+.
Review by: Christopher Thelen
What's the worst thing that happens when a certain form of
music becomes instantly the craze? You end up with
oversaturation of the genre, and its eventual death.
It happened in the late '80s with heavy metal, and it is
happening right now with the alternative rock scene. One
such band who happened in on the then-flowering alternative
scene was Dig, a band I'll freely admit I never particularly
cared for. I have no doubts that they were sincere about the
music they were creating, but they just sounded like another
cookie-cutter band. (For example, what band doesn't sound
like Matchbox 20 these days?)
Not even the almost complete re-building of the band (save
for founding member/vocalist/guitarist Scott Hackwith) help
matters much, although the band's third album Life Like
deoes have a richer texture to it, much like The Beatles in
their later days or The Verve today. The music isn't bad, but
it's just not exciting.
From the opening moments of "Live In Sound," the listener is
hit with wave after wave of rich audio levels courtesy of
Hackwith, guitarist John Morris, bassist Jay Nicholas and
drummer Gene Trautmann. But the problem isn't with the
tonality of the music or the overall performances. Simply put,
the songwriting doesn't allow any one performance to really
stand out. It's easy to put this disc on, look away for what
you think are a few minutes, then look back to discover over
half the disc has played. (The disc itself is a short 39-plus
minutes for 12 songs.) "Coming Down" flows almost too
smoothly into "The Fuzz," and so on.
This isn't to say that all the songs blend into one gelatinous
mess. Tracks like "All Over You," "I Don't Mind" and the
title track do stand out after repeated listenings as being
somewhat superior to the other offerings. (And at such a
short running time, this is a disc that you can easily slap on for
more than one listen.)
But Dig doesn't seem to have any one characteristic that sets
itself from the Third Eye-Hootie-Matchbox scenario that
seems to have gripped the alternative rock world in the last
few years. They seem perfectly happy playing as the
background music to the scene - and that is where I think
they're making their biggest mistake. Dig does have more
potential than I would have given them credit for prior to
multiple listens of Life Like - but they don't act on it.
In a musical genre where bands act as lemmings, following
their musical predecessors over the cliffs, Dig does nothing to
break away from the free-fall that alternative rock seems to
be in. That is the greatest disappointment with Life Like.
Five years ago, with its elliptical name and three-guitar attack, California's Dig should have taken its rightful place next to Stone Temple Pilots in the pantheon of grungy-come-latelys. But the band's late-'93 debut made it just a little late for America's black celebration. Lost in Dig's brief moment of MTV fame--spurred by the earnest, minor hit "Believe"--was singer-guitarist Scott Hackwith's better-than-average songwriting skills. Unwilling to pack it in when pop culture told it to, Dig has released its third album, Life Like, and it's a surprisingly likable, tuneful affair, a stab at power-pop that suits the group better than grunge ever did.
The opener, "Live In Sound," is Brit-pop better than the Brits have done it lately, the kind of tune that would have made Paul Weller proud. Guitars still dominate Dig's sound, but they coexist with piano, organ and layers of multi-tracked voices; the songs themselves are, with a couple of drawn-out exceptions, economical, tight, and even a little funky ("The Fuzz"), with only the occasional spacey interlude ("Coming Down," "Busstopping") breaking the crunchy fun. "Comfortable," the guitar-heavy closer, serves as the only reminder of Dig's old sound, but it's short and sweet enough not to sound like it's yearning for flannel-clad days of yore.
Dig is probably best known for its 1993 single and video "Believe," which lodged itself in MTV's Buzz Bin for a few months. The grunge-tainted crunch of the California band's alt-pop is given a slight facelift on Life Like, eschewing heavy sonics in favor of a subtler melodic focus. There are clear Brit-pop influences at work here, as evidenced by Scott Hackwith's exaggerated vocal mannerisms and by the band's mod-ish power-pop stance. But like any no-nonsense rock 'n' roll album, Life Like plays it pretty straight and narrow, calling attention to its simple strengths. The tight, three-guitar attack, Hackwith's charismatic delivery and the careful placement of multi-tracked vocal harmonies may not be that new to Alternative Radio's ears, but a well-executed presentation of the tried-and-true is a rare commodity these days. On that premise, Dig delivers as well as anyone.
Dig has always had the hooks, the smarts, the accessibly buzzing guitars, and the personality to find mass acceptance, but for some reason, its albums have never really broken through. Sure, there was the anthemic 1993 hit single "Believe" (from the L.A. group's disappointingly thin-sounding self-titled debut), but the record from whence it came disappeared into the used-CD bins shortly thereafter. Dig's 1996 sophomore album, the underrated Defenders Of The Universe, flopped badly despite a hilariously self-effacing, catchy single ("Whose Side You On"), and the group quickly disappeared. Fortunately, Dig gets another chance with the new Life Like, which more or less lives up to the band's promise. There's no home run here, just a load of sharp, radio-friendly, occasionally mildly psychedelic pop songs, each supported by surprisingly full production and busy instrumentation. Bandleader Scott Hackwith continues to shroud his limited voice in effects and echo, and as long as it's in aid of such enjoyably lustrous, buzzy guitar-pop anthems as "Live In Sound," "The Fuzz," and "Bumpkin," there's still no reason to complain. Life Like sags a bit in its second half"Busstopping" is an uneventful instrumental, and if "Possibilities" is a hit, Mercury Records should cash in by reissuing Material Issue's albumsbut it's a fine, if inessential, addition to an undervalued little catalog. Stephen Thompson (The Onion A/V Club)
Life Like - dig
The third full album by this L.A.-based quartet is more of the same psychedelic garage rock they are known for. The group's rough-hewn style blends perfectly with lead singer Scott Hackwith's gloriously tattered voice. The opening track, "Live in Sound," captures Dig's garage rock style, mixing pounding guitars with Hackwith's charred vocals. Dig also succeeds at more mellow numbers like the acoustic "I Don't Mind." If you have a craving for fuzz tone guitars, you'd probably be best served by the classic Nuggets compilation. Still, Dig more than holds its own and shows that garage rock is still alive and kicking. ~ Jon Azpiri, All Music Guide
Album: Life Like
File Under: Rock/Pop
Reviewed By: Roxanne Blanford (http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Frontrow/2647/revdig.html)
It's a puzzlement, that's what it is. No sooner do fans of California alt/rock-crunch-grunge rockers DIG breathe a sigh of relief for their resurrection, than this charismatic band is unceremoniously dropped from their label. Luckily, they managed to release "Life Like" before the purge took place. Here, the band creates harmonious melodies with a clearly distinct Brit-pop slant. This works to the advantage of lead guitarist/vocalist Scott Hackwith's abilities and the mod-rock leanings exhibited by Dig's guitars. Shame, though. It's been six long years since Dig debuted with 1993's "Believe", and three years since their full-length follow-up, "Defenders of the Universe". And now, with the promise of a new day seemingly dimmed, it's all a question of when, where and if Dig will resurface again. In the meantime, grab ahold of this 12-track gem. Mixed by the great Sylvia Massy (Skunk Anansie,Tool, Cyclefly) "Life Like" is one to keep. - UNI/RADIOACTIVE RECORDS, Released January 1999