DINERS with Growing Pains and Foam Boy

Wed October 11, 2023
( Doors: 7:00 pm ) SHOW: 8:00 pm PDT
Star Theater
13 NW Sixth Avenue, Portland, OR
Ages 21 and Up

Blue Broderick, the singer/songwriter behind Diners, was chatting with her pal and fellow songwriter Mo Troper, who would soon produce her next record. Both power pop enthusiasts and Beatles worshippers, Broderick knew Troper would bring a keen sensibility to the sessions, which would take place in a high-end Portland studio, the Trash Treasury. But Troper was insistent on a particular direction: he wanted to channel Diners’ vintage 70s pop sound into a ripping rock n roll record. What would that mean exactly?

More distortion, indeed, and the precise multi-guitar arrangements of power pop bands like the dBs and The Shivvers. Described as the loudest drummer Broderick has ever worked with, Troper found upping the tempo and laying in hard on the cymbals to be a reliable solution for any hamstrung material. Finally, with the addition of accomplished metal and punk engineer Jack Shirley’s mixing, the energetic DOMINO makes good on the duo’s ambition.

“This is the rock record that I always wanted to make,” Broderick says. “I know that any time I turn it on, it’s what I set out to do.”

During those initial discussions with Troper, Broderick was game for a new approach. Much had changed since 2022’s Four Wheels and the Truth, a gentle and spacious collection of her signature guitar pop: she’d relocated to Los Angeles and come out as trans. At first, it seemed fitting to completely rename the project, to redefine her art in the way she’d redefined her life, and the prospect of starting over brought an exciting burst of new ideas. Though none of the songs on DOMINO explicitly reference her trans identity, Broderick believes the album couldn’t have been written without the freeing and energizing experience of coming out. As a result, she examines subject matter familiar to Diners' listeners--promises, goals, living up to one’s own ideals, hoping the world can change for the better--with even greater clarity of purpose.

Ultimately, a friend convinced her it didn’t make sense to start at square one when, after ten years and six full-length albums, her audience would better see this change as part of a larger whole. Broderick’s work has always been Diners, and DOMINO, despite its overdriven guitars and snappier pace, still has Diners’ lyrical charm at its core. There’s always been a breeze blowing through Broderick’s wistful melodies, but they glide alongside fuzz bass, thick drums, and hazy tremolo here. The surfy swoon of "So What" gains an urgent Cars-like bop in the chorus, while “Painted Pictures” has Broderick peacefully ruminating among swaggering Neil Young guitars. “The Power” has the irresistible stomp of Big Star, complete with McCartney harmonies and tambourine shimmer.

On the first day of tracking, Broderick felt unmoored by all the cracking snares and guitar feedback but is proud to have trusted her gut. “It’s good to be a little naïve with a lot of creative things,” she says. There’s no mistaking DOMINO as anything less than a big departure. Still, with jangly, affirming jams like “Working on My Dreams” and “Someday I’ll Go Surfing”, Broderick believes the album has plenty to offer fans of Diners’ mellow, optimistic catalog. “This one is positive too,” she insists, “but I am trying to rock the house.”   - Chase Kamp