Submitted By: Sean M. Davis
They made history at the Hatch Shell in 2004, sat upon the roof of their oldest companion in 2006: now, for 2011, Dispatch is planning something big, and I am eager to discover what it is! The recent activity on dispatchmusic.com sparked a renewed interest in the band: who exactly is Dispatch and what is their influence on musical discourse? Many critics and writers attempted to label Dispatch in the past, all failed. They failed because Dispatch is not about arbitrary aesthetic labels, pre-determined by faceless record companies. No, Dispatch is about making music, about bringing people together and, most of all, they are about originality in expression. Maybe their music does not show the most erudite use of technique, but their songs have a sense of realness to them that much avant-garde music lacks. One thing is certain of Dispatch: their resistance against anything mainstream, and eclectic musical background, makes their sound completely unique.
Perhaps the main reason Dispatch defies labels is because of their propensity to incorporate multiple styles and make them their own. From reggae to hard-rock, nothing is taboo for Dispatch. It is because of this eclectic style that I will finally attempt to classify this motley assortment of independent musicians. First, let me begin by re-defining an over-referenced genre: folk music. Most people think of folk music as the old-fashioned origins of styles like country or bluegrass, or as a specific genre referring to songwriters such as Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell. However, my definition of folk music encompasses a larger variety of musicians. Folk is nothing more than original music produced by amateurs, usually expressing some kind of personal message or telling a story. Folk traditions all over the world are influenced by the sounds and conventions of their geographical locations; many people think that because of the internet and mass media, real folk music is no longer possible. This notion is absurd. Just because the amount of music amateurs have access to blossomed in the past few decades does not mean that the sounds produced are more or less valid. If anything, the sheer amount of styles artists have at their disposal provides a greater opportunity to create new and interesting music. For these reasons I dub this music “new folk.”
If we accept my definition of “new folk,” groups like Dispatch are the quintessential examples of the style. They incorporate sounds from as many musical idioms as they have come into contact with; then they turned it into something new. Borrowing from other musical traditions is idiosyncratic of folk music, as is propounding a message of self-improvement. Also, like Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel and countless others before them, Dispatch often employs the fable as a musical-literary device. Songs such as “The General,” “Flying Horses” and “Riddle” exemplify the use of fable in music. This practice draws upon songs like Bob Dylan’s classic “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Where have all the Flowers Gone?” The difference is that Dispatch fuses the literary fable with a multitude of musical styles.
The “new folk” will continue to grow; with the iTunes age upon us there is no telling what kinds of music will emerge. One can only hope that bands such as Dispatch surface through the rough and find their way into our ears. We are no longer bound by the aesthetic chains of record companies; we can write the type of music that we want. Even if Dispatch does not fit your ear, they proved that independent, amateur musicians can create powerful, thought-provoking music.
Check out Dispatch music at www.dispatchmusic.com