“GRUNGEBOY”, Dil’s First EP

For those who don’t know, Dil is an artist from a small town in mid-Michigan who I had the pleasure of racing against in high school and who I would consider to be a personal friend of mine. Dil started in the music scene last year releasing a handful of singles, all of which I enjoyed, and on the first of July he released his first real cohesive project, a five song EP titled GRUNGEBOY. After spending some time with the project and giving the 13 minute long EP several listens start to finish, I’ve decided to give Dil the highest respect that I can bestow and give GRUNGEBOY a track by track review. Despite having been friends with Dil for a few years, I will make an effort to avoid my personal bias and judge the work purely as a piece of music, not as the work of a friend. With that being said, I must admit, I really liked it.

As the title suggests, GRUNGEBOY is primarily of the grunge style, which is interesting for a couple reasons. Firstly, before dropping GRUNGEBOY, Dil had not released any singles that I would consider to be grunge. Dil self proclaimed most of his music to be sad boy, emo rap but has also touched on some more folky stylings with “White Dress”. Although he never veered too far from the emo rap style he seems to be the most comfortable in, I’d always gotten the sense that Dil has some range, and GRUNGEBOY only verified my suspicions. The other reason that grunge was an interesting genre choice is that, to put it simply, grunge isn’t a very relevant genre nowadays. Dil’s decision to step away from the genre that he is the most experienced with and that is not only relevant but extremely popular in favor of grunge for an entire EP is bold, admirable, and truly just super cool. I would argue that this gamble payed off as Dil is able to not only deliver a collection of quality grunge songs, but is also able to use the genre to more effectively tell the story that he wants to tell.

The first of the five tracks on GRUNGEBOY is “BED OF ROSES”, which is, in my opinion, the weakest of the bunch. the thing about “BED OF ROSES”, though, is that it knows its role, doing an excellent job bringing the listener into the world of GRUNGEBOY. Dil makes effective and striking use of dynamic contrast and splits the song pretty much down the middle into a soft, slow opening and a louder second half filled with heavier instrumentals. “BED OF ROSES” isn’t bad lyrically, but it lacks the punch that the other tracks have. It’s definitely not my favorite song on the EP but I have yet to skip over it purely for the necessity of having an introductory track.

“LEECH” is the second track on GRUNGEBOY, one of the two heavier, grungier songs on the EP, and is probably the most re-listen-able of the five. Terrifically produced, lyrically interesting, and sporting an easily remembered and shoutable chorus, “LEECH” is a real blast of a song that I really don’t have any complaints about. I wouldn’t call it the best artistic accomplishment of the EP, but every grunge project needs its “Smells Like Teen Spirit” equivalent, and “LEECH” fills that role.

“SALVATION” is the midpoint of the EP, the narrative turning point, and while tying the EP’s two halves together it is probably the least fun track on the EP. It doesn’t quite demand my attention in the same way that “LEECH” or the following track will, but much like “BED OF ROSES” it accomplishes exactly what it needs to. It is lyrically better than “BED OF ROSES” and is the most overtly spiritual of the five tracks but is the flattest in its production. For the sake of the narrative, themes, and composition of the EP at large, however, “SALVATION” is important and the EP would be worse off without it.

“ENEMY” is, in my opinion, the best track on this EP. It matches “LEECH” as the heavy track on the other side of “SALVATION” and contains some of the finest bouts of lyricism of Dil’s career so far. I don’t think the production quite stands up against “LEECH” but it’s pretty close. It’s a confident, bold, and thoroughly entertaining track that only grows on me as I listen to GRUNGEBOY again and again. Thematically and considering its place in the EP’s narrative, “ENEMY” reminds me of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” within To Pimp a Butterfly, a comparison that, in my eyes, is nothing if not complimentary.

The final track of the EP, “VENGEANCE” spends nearly its entire first half in a slow build to an emotional drop, much like “BED OF ROSES”, a similarity that hardly seems accidental. It is short but effective, wrapping up the EP in excellent fashion, no so much with a bang as with a solemn yet hopeful lone guitar, leaving the listener with their thoughts. I find “VENGEANCE” to be a fine track, and another important one to the narrative (there truly isn’t any deadweight on this EP in that department, though), but one that I’m not likely to go out of my way to listen to on its own. I genuinely doubt that Dil crafted this final song with that intent, however, so maybe that’s hardly an insult. All told, though, I can’t find any real flaws or glaring problems with the song, and if nothing else Dil nails the epilogue-y tone that makes the song fit so well in its role on the EP.

Dil told Ride Music that GRUNGEBOY is a “storytelling EP that dives deep into the life cycle of sin” with each track exploring a different stage in the struggle against the demons that we each must face in our own lives. GRUNGEBOY‘s first half and last half seem to mirror each other in tone while thematically being perfect opposites. In this way, the EP’s structure reminds me of King Crimson’s 1969 debut In The Court of the Crimson King, which is a big compliment coming from me, believe me. The entire EP sits atop an underlying spirituality that serves to help bind the project together thematically without feeling forced or heavy handed in the slightest. As happens to most young artists, Dil’s influences are pretty easy to pick out, without feeling like a rip-off or cheap imitation of an early Nirvana record. Is there a tinge of Cobain in the Dil’s vocals? Sure, but he’s far from doing a Kurt impression. Start to finish Dil fills GRUNGEBOY with quality vocals and surprisingly well produced instrumentals that are all confident and unique enough to avoid feeling like an attempt to replicate anybody else. GRUNGEBOY is far from perfect, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that it is a really solid project, all things considered. More importantly, it serves as a milestone, a signifier of a new stage in the journey of a young musician.

At first I supported Dil because he is a friend, then I became a fan because I genuinely enjoyed his music, and now that I’ve gotten plenty of time to enjoy GRUNGEBOY, I’ve got season tickets to this guy. Whatever Dil drops, I’ll be listening, and there’s no two ways about it.

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