Journey to the Other Side: True Story by Stevie Dinner, an album review

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Written by David Paicu.

Journeys can begin just as easily as they end.

Simultaneously, some journeys accelerate while others pause. Neither ending or beginning nor pausing or accelerating are inherently bad or good but often, they are necessary.

Given our current political and social environment, all of our lives have been put on pause, a hiatus that has seemingly forced us from our individual journeys. It is within this climate of uncertainty that arguably one of the most reflective albums I’ve heard in a while has come to fruition with Stevie Dinner’s True Story.

After taking his own detour from creation, Josh Hughes A.K.A Stevie Dinner has made his comeback, now accompanied by partner-in-crime Steph Rinzler.

True Story is a reflection on past experiences that pours itself into the pan with Stevie Dinner’s creative process to cook up something wholly new.

What is most apparent is that Stevie Dinner have reinvented their sonic sound. It is an amalgamation of the subtly nuanced tones of Hughes' previous works with a more focused, uplifting approach to lyricism and production. In previous releases such as the famous ‘Card Declined for Pizza & Wine’, the echoing of his voice would meld into an internal dialogue; what was created was something inherently magical, wandering and dreamy.

True Story takes a new turn, replacing those internal monologues with active dialogues that romanticise and acknowledge the pains of love and longing. With songs such as 'Naturally', the quieter more sombre tones of the album are followed by an upbeat tempo and a new stranger who becomes part of the conversation. This conversation, based off a love song and transformed into a dialogue between two lovers, creates an enchanting emotion not unlike some indie version of Sonny & Cher.

While there is a stark sonic contrast between 'Naturally' and the tracks that precede it, this contrast is also seen manifesting itself in 'Never Gonna Let You Go'. This juxtaposition creates an intense mixture of emotions in a song whose sound parallels those of classic love songs, but whose lyrics allude to drug-use. Similar to 'Heroin' by the Velvet Underground and 'Suddenly' by Drugdealer, the rather cheerful notion of the song is almost cut down by the nature of its lyrics. This same experience is found in other songs on the record, such as 'Stray Cats' and 'Junkie'.

While True Story marks a largely new, more sombre yet upbeat sound for Stevie Dinner, the band still keeps to its roots. With a near-five-minute-long instrumental track that slots itself in amongst the lyric-laden pieces, 'The Joy of Intervention' lives up to its title. An ode to the previous album's 'Audrey Horne' and a palette cleanser of sorts, 'The Joy of Intervention' acts as an idiosyncratic statement left by Hughes. Largely influenced by jazz as it feeds into their previous albums, Stevie Dinner takes the time to enjoy sounds free from words, weaving in and out of overbearing piano and drum percussion that do rather modernise the seventies-sounding ballad into a jazz piece.

Luckily - and arguably one of the most interesting things about True Story - the sound of Hughes' Stevie Dinner intermingles perfectly with the influences of Steph Rinzler. The lowkey vocals and psychedelic sounds of guitar strums are not forgotten, but rather accentuated. Never one to profess himself as an amazing singer but rather a musician who understands how to match vocals to his music, Hughes' vocals pair perfectly with Rinzler. If you were wondering what Daniel Johnston’s 'Some Things Last a Long Time' would sound like were it paired with the similarly intimate vocals of Clairo or Beabadoobee, then you need not look any further. This pairing of sonic sensibilities of the two creatives establishes what can only be described as a refreshing burst of honest emotion.

What may come off as a jumble of songs, a menagerie of different experiences, is tied together by the string that is growth, both physically and mentally. True Story tells a story in the same way anyone would. It focuses on the main bits, the best ones, and when it remembers the other parts, it comes back to them. The journey they create is somewhat similar to the journey of Odysseus in the Iliad, if it were described to you without the refined edits of a long-published ancient text: it is raw, it is incredibly emotional, and you know you’re going to come back to it when you’re feeling confused and in need of some words of wisdom.

True Story is available for purchase on Bandcamp, and on all streaming services now. Have a listen below: