If you think artists are useless, try spending your quarantine without books, photography, movies and music. With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, we might find ourselves with idle time accompanied by the uncomfortable pangs of ennui, for which there is no better remedy than the arts.
If you’re bored with the same old playlist, now is the ideal opportunity to explore new musical talent. And because music is great for reflective time alone or background ambiance, as well as motivating during exercise sessions, many people working from home now can relate to these very scenarios at this awkward and surreal time in the history of the world.
As Nietzsche so profoundly stated, “Life without music would be a mistake.” And Dramarama has been part of my life for more than three decades. This New Jersey-born, Los Angeles-bred indie cult rock band, founded in the eighties, is still going strong in 2020, and is one of my hands-down favorite musical groups of all time. There’s good reason for that.
Dramarama was introduced to me some thirty years ago by one of my hippest LA friends. The band has gone through its fair share of incarnations and personal evolution. They even broke up for a bit before reuniting again in 2003, and have just released a fab, brand-spanking-new album, ‘Color TV.’
If you’ve never heard of Dramarama, that’s probably because they are, to borrow from the lexicon of a fellow arts writer, “criminally underrated.” I urge you to check out their entire, seven studio album anthology, because it’s prolific, it’s pure excellence, and it’s bloody brilliant. They’re the band that, unlike many of their peers, never gave up, sold out, or died. Endowed with longevity, Dramarama has stood the test of time, over and over again.
Singer/songwriter John Easdale is the charismatic frontman, whose writing has taken on a decidedly different angle over the years—less romantic, more poignant social commentary masquerading as lyrics in tunes like “Classic Rot,” off the timeless 1991 album ‘Vinyl.’ John lyrically ponders matters in that song as he croons in his distinct, unmistakable timbre: “Well I’m laughing at the waitress, and they’re starving in the streets; and they’re charging more for Wonder, and they’re burning fields of wheat.”
The music is just so good, the lyrics so relevant, and ‘Color TV’ is Dramarama at their profound best—pure poetry set to rock—two electric guitars, bass and drums, with an occasional acoustic guitar or keyboard thrown in. “Up To Here,” dishes more social commentary with a catchy tune, as John chants: “‘Cause if everything we try to do just fails; Chill the planet, feed the hungry, save the whales; The Ramones are selling soda pop and beer; I’m surprised we haven’t had it up to here.”
I keep listening to the most haunting track off the album, “You, You, You,” which is the ultimate love song. This is the kind of song that makes me fall in love with Dramarama all over again, after all these years. It’s the kind of song women dream of having written about them. It also happens to be John’s favorite song on the album he told me in an interview exclusive to BSSTW, not only for the sentiment (John wrote it about his wife), but also due to the way it turned out in the studio.
“When we recorded it,” he said, “it featured the whole band.” But after stripping away the bass, drums and most of the guitars for a more acoustic version, the final result was unusually indelible—unique and atmospheric. I haven’t heard that kind of romantic obsession in Dramarama for a while now, but it definitely reminds me of the longing and preoccupation that you’d find in their manic yet memorable “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You),” off ‘Cinema Verité.’
Here, John pleads with the object of his affection in the most beautifully desperate way: “I’ll give you candy, give you diamonds, give you pills; I’ll give you anything you want, hundred dollar bills.” This song sounds just as current as it did 35 years ago, which truly says something about the band and the scope of their talent.
Dramarama tour relentlessly and I’ve seen them a few times in-person. I must say, they present really well and put on quite a show. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, their plans for the year have been altered. For more information about Dramarama including photos, video and upcoming tour dates visit their official site.