Smithereens drummer and pop music historian Dennis Diken releases new album, Late Music
“I guess I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid,” says Dennis Diken. “There are melodies and lyric ideas that I just can’t get out of my head and some of them have been lodged there since I was five or six years old! But I grew up thinking I was just a self-taught drummer and that was my gig.”
Diken, best known for providing the backbeat with New Jersey’s Smithereens since 1980, has emerged from behind the drum kit to present Late Music under the nom du disque Dennis Diken with Bell Sound. The recording was released on September 29, 2009 by Cryptovision and distributed by Select-O-Hits.
Diken hastens to add, “Please don’t call it a ‘solo’ album. This music was hatched by two musically like-minded guys.” Fellow Jerseyan Pete DiBella collaborated with Dennis to bring 13 songs to fruition, reflecting their mutual love of classic pop and rock genres. “DiBella is an inspired musical talent, with a special knack for vocal arranging. I did my first home recordings with him in the ’70s and we reconnected in the ’90s. His ability to maximize a minimal recording setup is stunning. “Standing in That Line” was cut on a four-track cassette!”
While Late Music was created mostly in East Coast home studios, Diken headed west to complete the project at the famed Bomb Factory in Los Angeles. “Dave Amels (Stepford Husbands, Reigning Sound, Mary Weiss) helmed the sessions, producing and playing a bank of keyboards. We called on friends from the Wondermints (between gigs as Brian Wilson’s band) to add vocals and instrumentation.” Their sun-splashed spirit is evident, especially on “Let Your Loved One Sleep.”
Other guests include multi-instrumentalist Andy Paley (co-producer of Brian Wilson’s eponymous debut solo album). “Andy lived and breathed a good chunk of this record. He literally dreamed parts for “No One’s Listening” and dashed to the studio one morning after awakening with some magical ideas.” The Honeys, Brian Wilson’s most celebrated outside production, sing backup on “Tell All the Fools.” “It was a thrill to have Marilyn, Ginger and Diane on board. They sound wonderful as ever.” Popmeister Jason Falkner can be heard on bass and lead guitar on “The Bad Merry-Go-Round” and “I’ve Been Away,” respectively. Other vocal contributors include Ben Jaffe of HoneyHoney and Jude Christodal.
The finely-wrought sound of Late Music owes much to The Four Freshmen, The Four Seasons, The Bee Gees and The Beach Boys. And Dennis Diken with Bell Sound’s hat remains roguishly tipped to The Association, The Who and The Move. Yet Late Music remains their own thing, for them to offer and the world to dig. And dig, it must. It’s never too late.
Diken is a founding member of the Smithereens, whose other remaining original members include Pat DiNizio and Jim Babjak, all of whom met in central New Jersey. (Diken met Babjak on the first day of high school in 1971; they met DiNizio some years later.)
The Smithereens’ hits include “Blood and Roses,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” “The House We Used To Live In,” “Drown in My Own Tears,” “A Girl Like You,” “Blues Before and After,” “Top of the Pops,” “Too Much Passion” and more. The albums Especially for You and 11 certified gold. In March of 2010 the band will celebrate its 30th anniversary.
The release of Late Music also marks the relaunch of Cryptovision Records. During the mid 1980s, New York-based Cryptovision records rated in the top 25 of independent record companies and launched the recording careers of people like Sam Coomes (Elliot Smith, Quasi, Donner Party). Other notable Cryptovision artists are Flying Color, Optic Nerve, Stepford Husbands, and The Mod Fun. Virtually none of the 1980s Cryptovision records have been released on CD. Dave Amels, former head of A&R, now company chief, states, “The goal of the new Cryptovision Records is to both reissue selections from the 1980s catalog in digital form and to release really great new music . . .music rooted in the deep American pop and rock ‘n’ roll traditions.”
Reflecting on Late Music, Diken adds, “I’m really proud of our work on this album. And I got to sing lead on most tracks. I guess you can say that vocals are my second love . . . next to playing drums.”
– Conqueroo PR