Horror · Much Ado About Keanu · Music

Review: Dogstar’s “Somewhere Between the Power Lines and Palm Trees” Is a 90s Rock Imaginarium Extravaganza

Happy Halloween to Dogstar fans, indeed! Somewhere Between the Power Lines and Palm Trees dropped at midnight October 6, 2023 for pre-orders and you can bet that I was already waiting at 12:01 AM for the album to go live. I listened to it four times before I went to sleep and it’s been on repeat since I woke up. No skips, as the kids say.

I love the homonym poetry of Bret Domrose’s lyrics, as well as the clever wordplay and multiple entendres.

What does it take? What can I take?
To bring you back, to touch your back?

“Everything Turns Around”

I can’t get over how much richer the timbre of Bret’s voice is now after all these years. His gift is aging well. I also love how the titles aren’t necessarily lyrics — like “Overhang,” “Upside,” and “Blonde” — which adds a narrative depth that plays out like a film in my head. It reminds me of The Beta Band’s The Three EPs, The Killers’ Sam’s Town, and Alexi Murdoch’s Time and Consequence, which similarly have a visual sound that also calls to my mind Aimee Mann’s Magnolia.

Power Lines and Palm Trees is a story about a messy man and a complicated woman in Los Angeles, and how hard they did and didn’t try to make their love work over the course of many years. It’s hopeful, it’s sexy, and it’s wrenching in equal measures, sometimes simultaneously. But unlike the comparisons I’ve made to other albums, this tale is most excellently and effectively nonlinear.

Lily the Cyclops, by Rose Margaret Deniz, from American Monsters (2011).

And watch how I turn it into a horror movie: The woman gets a name in track six, Lily. In my first novel American Monsters, also set in LA, Lily is a cyclops who can turn men to stone with her eye. In my book she’s just a teen. But in my Power Lines and Palm Trees imaginarium, Lily is all grown up and thriving. Except for this toxic entanglement with a troubled musician who wants her back but doesn’t understand how to make it work. In the lyrics he even says how she’s “looking like you’re trying to kill me.” My Lily’s eye is still dangerous as ever, but she loves him too much to actually use it.

The things that I do don’t work for you,
and all that you need doesn’t seem to be inside of me.
“How The Story Ends

If this album is my imaginary horror movie, it’s akin to Bones and All. There is also a mythmaking dash of the boys in The Virgin Suicides as they reflect on the lost Lisbon Sisters. A warm angst with a dark undercurrent that’s weirdly comforting. The story feels real and honest.

A lot of imagery comes to mind as I listen. The sitar riff in “Lust” could be a nod to Keanu’s Little Buddha. And the closing notes of the song remind me of David Bowie’s Labyrinth twinkles. After all, Dogstar opened for Bowie in 1995 at the Hollywood Palladium. “How the Story Ends” feels like a nod to River Phoenix’s James Wright in The Thing Called Love who also had a penchant for leaving his songs hanging on an unresolved note, to hauntingly beautiful effect.

There’s a song for everyone to bring them home.
“Dillon Street”

Dillon Street and Rob Mailhouse’s moving harmonica solo feels like a tribute to Bob Dylan himself, and so many other great singer/songwriters. Keanu on bass is the sounds of joy, the heartbeat of the world. It’s a bold move ending the album on “Breach,” which is a cliffhanger making me already impatient for their next record.

After the past year working on Much Ado About Keanu and writing about the band before I even knew they’d be getting back together — and so soon — Power Lines and Palm Trees feels like such a gift from the universe. An entirely new way to experience Mr Reeves’ expansive art and creativity.

But it also feels like time traveling back to the peak of 90s rock. I don’t think an album has ever made me so fucking happy, so immediately instantly. And I’m grateful to be in the world at the same time as this collection of magical tunes, and sharing the planet with this trio of my heroes who so thoughtfully brought this musical vision to life.

✨Sirius/5 stars. Recommend to the moon and back again.✨