One of the many pleasures that comes from listening to Dick Diver’s Melbourne, Florida is hearing people sing in unaffected Australian accents. So many Australian musicians seem embarrassed by the country they hail from, and do everything they can to keep their Ochre twang from their voices – just look at the difference between Iggy Azaela’s singing voice and the one she uses in interviews – so it’s nice to hear a group of musicians so openly embracing their natural, down to earth tones.
Indeed, Melbourne, Florida seems to be a celebration of music from Australia and New Zealand rather than a typical attempt to ape the music from the U.K. and the States. Dick Diver’s songs are deeply mired in the sonic history of down under: it’s very easy to hear the influence of Flying Nun Bands like The Bats, The Clean and The Verlaines on Dick Diver’s tunes, as well as Aussie groups like The Go-Betweens and The Triffids. From these groups, Dick Diver have borrowed a sense of humbleness and of playfulness. There’s a kind of wide eyed optimism to a lot of the album, most obvious on impressive tracks like Year in Pictures and Tearing the Posters Down.
But as with any good album, the songs of Melbourne, Florida take inspiration from the past rather than completely ripping off the sound of other bands. Album opener Waste The Alphabet has both a unique vocal performance and a strikingly original lyric, allowing it to easily stand on its own two feet. Similarly, Dick Diver’s use of a horn section on a song like Leftovers proves their ability to go their own way, experimenting with sound and melody in a way that feels both refreshing and charming.
Despite the fact that the overall tone of the album is one of gentle hopefulness – songs like Blue Time and % Points are upbeat in a way that makes one think of sunny afternoons in the beach, despite the fact that the latter song contains the lyric “there’s sick on your lapel” – but the band never let the songs become one note, or samey. Every now and then they drop a tune that comes with a healthy serving of melancholy: Blue Time has an air of the bittersweet, and album closer View From A Shakey Ladder boats an impressive simplicity that it is at once disarmingly innocent, and yet steeped in a gentle sadness.
By the time Melbourne, Florida has drawn to a close then, one is left undeniably moved. Without ever aiming for the overblown, either sonically or lyrically, Dick Diver have achieved a kind of humble greatness: a success that never telegraphs itself, or makes demands of the listener. In that way, Melbourne, Florida is like a holiday romance: never grandiose or dramatic, but always sweet, slightly sad, and in its own quiet way, unforgettable.