Dry Cell

Warner Brothers, 2002


REVIEW BY: Greg Calhoun


Dry Cell and their first album, Disconnected, have a convoluted story.  Part of it was already told in a 2002 story in The New York Times, “Young Band, Derailed Dream,” penned by Laura Holson.  This story tells of troubles with Warner Brothers records and with distinguishing themselves from acts like Linkin Park.  Nearly eight years later, we can see the full effect of the story Ms. Holson told.  The band has broken up, reformed, and now appears to be finished for good, with former lead singer Jeff Gutt fronting Detroit act Band With No Name. Disconnected and a retrospective collection album on iTunes are all that is left of a band that once appeared primed for mainstream success.

In an era of Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and Papa Roach dominating rock radio, this disc managed to stand apart from the crowd by its focus on catchy melodies.  It remains one of the most hook-laden albums of the nu-metal era because Dry Cell never sacrificed the melody for the sake of being heavy. It would’ve been unnecessary if they had, though, for Jeff Gutt’s strong yet scratchy voice adds an aggressive tone without compromising the quality of the songwriting. And the songwriting is quite good considering the youth of the group, in which Gutt was the only member in his twenties at the time. While the lyrics do not live up to the music, the band’s belief in their material keeps you listening even when the lyrics dip into mediocrity.     my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Slip Away” demonstrates the vocal interplay between Gutt and bassist Judd Gruenbaum, and even also between Gutt and himself, thanks to the magic of the studio. The trading of phrasing in many of these songs injects energy into the album and also makes for great car ride duets. “Under The Sun” has a heavy, chugging riff as its backbone, but it softens into a melancholic, almost tender song about being unsure after ending a relationship.  “Body Crumbles” brought Dry Cell clout after it was featured in the video game Madden 2003 and the film Queen  Of The Damned. While it isn’t the best track on the record, it is a catchy listen. 

The title track is better and has one of the most memorable refrains. “Ordinary” is less blistering than the album’s norm, but it is one of the best vocally while, on the other hand, demonstrating the band’s immaturity. In the otherwise passable outro, the lyrics, “It’s not easy and it’s hard” is used to bring the song back to lyrical root beginning each chorus. A more experienced band would have kept a laughable lyric out of the ending to a memorable song. The acoustic reprise of “Last Time” that follows is a more than respectable closer. It ends the album with a moving and surprisingly gentle take on the pain of adolescence.

Disconnected is a tantalizing record.  It shows a band with gallons of talent that will likely never be fulfilled. Like drinking fine wine or whiskey that have not yet aged, this album will make you wonder what could have been if the flashes of brilliance were fully realized. Yet it is solid on its own merit and well worth owning, even if just for raucous road trips duets. With Disconnected blaring out the windows, I guarantee you and your friends will show up at your destination hoarse but smiling.

Rating: B

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© 2010 Greg Calhoun and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.