Every once in a while, an artist with a truly singular vision crawls into view; possessing an innate ability for crafting pop music while displaying a total disregard for current trends and styles. Sure, it may be thrilling to immerse yourself into a particular scene and to fawn over a select group of bands that make the music you love, but there’s nothing quite like having someone throw a complete curveball of a record your way that defies the need to be shoved into a group. In Bristol alone, we’ve witnessed the growth of the now-ubiquitous post-punk crowd alongside the burgeoning techno and electronic underbelly of the city, and then there is Dick Dent.
With his second release in as many years, Dick Dent has begun to forge a name for himself by creating something that goes totally against the grain and focuses purely on the artistry rather than having any need for categorisation. The sounds heard on his new record, Do You Mind If I Talk? are almost of a retro-futuristic kind. It’s easy to imagine the album soundtracking past interpretations of a distant utopian world; people scooting around pristine cityscapes in hovering bubble cars as they listen to the most popular artist in the metropolis, Dick Dent. While it may be purely fantastical to imagine such a world, both this album and his debut effort, Life’s Hard feel as though birthed from someone who was fed a version of pop music from an alternate dimension.
Despite having a decidedly original approach, there are of course some touchstones of influence from those before him and from his contemporaries. Warm synthesised sounds wash over Dent’s clear voice across these eight tracks, driven by simplistic drum machines that faintly burst in the background – markings reminiscent of 80s synthpop acts such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. On the more experimental passages of the album, there are touches of early electronic innovators and pioneers such as Raymond Scott and Mort Garson – two other artists who very clearly walked creative paths on their own with little outside to influence them. Do You Mind If I Talk? and its predecessor were both released at opposite ends of periods of lockdown, yet the uniqueness of both albums makes it feel as though they have come from lengthier periods of isolation; blissfully unaware of recent musical developments but in a totally refreshing manner.
While the bouncy and dreamlike music invokes a positive feeling of nostalgia, the lyrical themed are steeped in anxieties very much reflected in modern society. Rather than jump to further conclusions on the artist’s mindset, there’s nothing quite like having their insight into the inspiration behind a body of work, so Wax saw fit to grill Dick Dent on the stories behind each track’s creation on Do You Mind If I Talk?
‘Leave Me A Message’
‘Leave Me A Message’ was one of the first songs written for this new record. It was in the winter of 2019 and I’d been listening to a lot of Carla Dal Forno. I’d recently acquired a Casio CT-410V and so it sort of came to life through me just running this new bit of kit through its paces. It was one of those songs where it was all recorded and finished in about half an hour. I planned to re-record bits for the final album, but I never managed to recapture the same energy that I had on that December evening. The song is about being homesick, longing to have some communication from home, some reassurance that everything is going to be alright.
‘Naked in the Window’
‘Naked in the Window’ was a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a song. The vocal melody and lyrics came from a little joke my partner, Laura, and I were having about being watched whilst getting changed. I had the chords and structure that I’d been playing around with for a bit. One day I was playing it whilst she was in earshot and just added the two together. It’s a bit of a throwaway pop song, which is why I didn’t take the subject matter too seriously, but on reflection, the albums theme is one of getting things off your chest so I feel that if I actually did encounter such a socially awkward moment, I would insist in making it even more awkward by discussing it. The song also features a saxophone solo from my good friend MF Tomlinson. Michael is such a great songwriter and I think that’s why this solo came out as well as it did – his compositional nous sat perfectly with my ramshackle synthpop.
‘Do You Mind If I Talk?’
‘Do You Mind If I Talk?’ was the song that crystalised my vision for this album. I like to have a running theme through a collection of songs and after writing this one, it seemed like I was naturally writing words down that fit in with the narrative of wanting to talk about things, but not having the voice or the arena to do so. I also really enjoyed the bounciness of the bass line, something I would try and replicate on ‘Naked in the Window’ and ‘The Need to Rush’ – I think it’s these sort of evolutions that make it a different beast than Life’s Hard.
Like ‘Reject’ on my first record, ‘Burning Wick’ is an instrumental track. ‘Burning Wick’ had been on my harddrive for a few months at this point, one of those tracks I’d made in a late night session and forgotten about. I was going through my old projects one day looking for some inspiration and there it was. I whacked a pitch shifter on it and voila, I knew I had the closer to the first half of the record.
‘Click of the Fingers’
‘Click of the Fingers’ was one of the last songs to be written for the album. I’d been listening to a lot of disco and electronica at the time and I think those influences found their way into this song. Lyrically, it’s about rising up against toxic relationships. Over the years I’ve been privy to some and I always felt bad about not confronting it.
‘The Need To Rush’
This song was written about the same time as ‘Do You Mind If I Talk?’. I’d like to think that that song informed this one, especially with the bass playing. They were both written on a Yamaha PSS460, so feature a lot of the same patches. At the time I was getting some incredibly kind responses to my first record and was really pushing myself to follow it up as soon as possible. That’s where the lyrical themes come from, not pushing something too hard and potentially ruining it.
‘Slanted Vision’ was written about the first time I’d really got properly sick. In short, I basically thought I was having a stroke. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, but it did really make me think about how I treated my body and how I would deal with suffering some life altering changes. The song also features additional guitar from my good friend Angus James from The Death of Pop. It’s the second song of mine on which he has contributed and he nails it every time. He has such an extensive knowledge of music that even with the vaguest of references he always slots in so perfectly.
‘I Stand For Nothing’
‘I Stand For Nothing’ was written at the same time as opening track ‘Leave Me A Message’ so I guess it’s fitting that it closes the record. Again, it came around by me messing around on my newly acquired Casio CT-410V and listening to lots of Carla Dal Forno. At the time, there was a lot of political fallout going on and it really confused me and made me really wonder what I actually stood for. I felt incredibly disillusioned and that was where the theme of the lyrics came from. I like to think I’ve become a bit more positive since then, but only slightly.
Words: Reuben Cross // Photos: Chelsey Cliff
‘Do You Mind If I Talk?’ is out now. Stream and purchase the album below via Bandcamp.