Dios’ self-titled debut was one of the subtle gems of 2004, a gorgeous, dreamy, hazy album of psychedelic pop ballads and Neil Young-inspired pop. Not long afterward, Ronnie James Dio and his band of lawyers from the netherworld ordered the Hawthorne band to change their name, even though it was Spanish for “God,” and not theft of an actual person’s name. Nonetheless, the band had to change it, much like The English Beat, London Suede and Mission UK all had to do when presented with similar problems. So, by adding (malos) to their name, dios had an entirely new opportunity to release a self-titled album, and they ran with it.
Though, technically, this album is a sophomore release for the band, it sounds more like a debut. There are lots of similarities between the two album, but this album has an entirely different feel about it, possibly thanks to producer Phil Ek, famous for his work with Built to Spill and The Shins. Where the group’s previous album was engulfed in melancholy haze, this album seems like more of a drunken celebration, soaking up the California sunrays and lighting up spliffs in the back of a convertible. The first track, “Feels Good Being Somebody” gives it away instantly: catchy pop melodies, an upbeat rhythm, and an almost British invasion-like melodic tone. As the group harmonizes “See how they run” during the chorus, you can almost envision the young Latinos with mop tops and skinny ties.
The upbeat, carefree moments are far more numerous on dios (malos), suggesting that the band underwent a profound transition between the last album and this one. “I Want it All” recalls Wilco’s “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” with sloppy Americana guitars and strummy acoustic chords. “Tokyo Sunrise” delves further into British invasion poppiness with the slightest bit of digital delay and falsetto “ooh-oohs.” However, it’s essentially an instrumental, making a lighthearted transition between the gorgeous ballad “EPK” (one of the few songs that retain the Dios sound) and “Grrrl…”, a hopelessly catchy song that sounds suspiciously like “That Thing You Do.” And “I Feel Fine All the Time” is all plinky pianos and pounding drums, interrupted here and there by a Floyd-ian trip-out.
It’s possible that the only transition the band made was from taking fewer drugs to consuming them at Timothy Leary worthy levels. It’s how they spend their money (“I take drugs/but sadly, I can’t afford `em“). It’s how they spend their time (“I get high, but I don’t remember why“). It’s how they keep themselves amused (“I wish I was on acid/and I am right now“). The subject matter of the record never strays too far from girls or drugs, and it certainly worked for their heroes, so why shouldn’t it for dios (malos)?
dios (malos) is a good record. It doesn’t have the deeply haunting and affecting quality that it’s predecessor had, but it’s a fun progression, if not a groundbreaking one. It’s clear that something changed with their name, however. Somewhere, at some point, the band just said “fuck it” and decided to make a catchy pop record. And I can scarcely think of one person, let alone a rock critic, who can argue with that.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.