Beloved Asbury indie trio Dentist have been out on a month-long national tour in support of “Night Swimming,” their debut album for Cleopatra Records. The tour culminates with a homecoming show on Aug. 24 at Asbury Park Yacht Club.
It’s been fun watching Dentist grow from a cute, quirky local surf-garage band to a nationally respected indie-rock act. Night Swimming solidifies their reputation, as has their first national tour in support of the 11-song debut for Los Angeles-based Cleopatra Records.
Their third album (following 2014’s self-titled/self-released debut and 2016’s Ceilings on Asbury Park’s Little Dickman Records) finds Dentist slimmed down to a trio in the studio for the first time with new drummer Matt Hockenjos. He brings his reggae-punk sense of rhythm to flesh out those of vocalist-bassist Emily Bornemann and guitarist Justin Bornemann.
The married couple have been songwriting partners even longer, initially with their first band together, No Wine for Kittens — also a cute, quirky, artsy act that featured drummer Andy Bova, the co-producer with Justin of Night Swimming, which was recorded at his Simple Sound Studios in Oceanport. With Night Swimming, the Bornemanns shed an occasional sense of silliness for a lyrically stark and sonically focused collection that laughs at life’s absurdities and cries at its hardships with stinging, ringing riffs, solid slabs of rhythm and mournful, hopeful poetics. Signature fuzz tones and a poppy undertow remain intact among a cryptically detailed loss of innocence that makes Night Swimming Dentist’s best record to date.
I like the haunting “Owl Doom Pt. 2,” so much so that I wish I knew where “Pt. 1” was. Since Owl Doom is Emily’s Instagram, perhaps it’s a sequel to No Wine for Kittens’ “Emily Pt. 1” from their three-song 2012 self-titled EP, but then that acoustic track was preceded by a full band version with a slightly different title on the Not Ready Yet EP released earlier that year. Anyway, I especially like the jellyfish-like sting of Justin’s guitar slashing through Emily’s waif-like vocal.
The record’s title track, which similarly bounces Justin’s rapid-fire guitar off forlorn vocals and lyrics about a need for change, and the closing wipeout of “The Latter” also are indie treats. The fragile coo of Emily’s vocal on the latter track makes her seem like a novice surfer on a wave of choppy rhythms. The simple but surprising beauty of the philosophic waxing of the mostly acoustic “All Is Well (in Hell)” also stands out.
Welcome Dentist home from tour on Aug. 24 at Asbury Park Yacht Club with Jersey Shore trio Sunshine Spazz, which has a slightly similar surf-garage sound but with three dudes bangin’ out psychedelia in place of Emily’s pretty voice and poetic lyrics. Dentist also will perform Sept. 8 at the fourth annual Bond Street Block Part in Asbury Park with Tide Bends, Gay Guy/Straight Guy, The Ribeye Brothers, Sweet Joey’s Thing of Beauty, Marvelous Liars, Von Mons and RocknRoll Hi-Fives; Sept. 16 at House of Independents, also Asbury, with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah; Oct. 6 at the North Jersey Indie Rock Festival at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City with Glazer, Ex-Maid, Glenn Morrow’s Cry for Help, The Royal Arctic Institute, Black Wail, Yawn Mower, Tony Saxon, Shithead’s Rainbow, Guilty Giraffe, The Components, The Vaughns, Smock, Secretary Legs, LKFFCT, Psychiatric Metaphors, Ultra Major and Professor Caveman; and Oct. 26 at Mill Hill Basement in Trenton with Acid Dad, Tide Bends and Alpha Rabbit.
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.