The DSM IV band photo

New Age Paranoia by The DSM IV: This Banger Shouldn’t Be Kept Quiet

One of my only real regrets in life is that I never got to see The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster live. Those who know me are probably thinking, “Oh mate, you have done plenty of things you should regret more than that”, and maybe they’re right, but at least I learned from those cringeworthy moments never to do them again. In contrast, nothing good came from not seeing EMB-LD.

There have only been a few occasions in my music-loving life where music has stopped me dead in my tracks. I clearly remember the first time I heard At the Drive-In’s Relationship of Command while browsing the CDs in HMV Lichfield while waiting for a bus. The screeching of “Suds and Soda” violins when I first saw dEUS on MTV and the first time I laid eyes on Mike Patton. The same feelings of awe, wonder, and lust came over me when I saw the video for “Psychosis Safari”. My love for The Eighties Matchbox began then, and that match has never stopped burning.

So a few months ago, while going through the mundanity of laundry folding, Spotify suggested I should listen to the new track by The DSM IV, “New Age Paranoia”. I don’t think I paired a single sock for the whole three minutes; I was so joyfully distracted. It was then I learned that this was the new band of the former frontman of EMB-LD, Guy McKnight, and I was pretty embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of them before, as Spotify had several songs of theirs, dating back to 2018. I thought I was late to the party, but it seems perhaps that the party has been happening without much fanfare.

After listening to their whole discography while dancing around my landing, coathangers for glow sticks, it dawned on me that a) that was the most exercise I’d done in about 10 years, and I was probably going to die, and b) this was the best band I have heard in a very long time. And I’ve heard a few. Every single track was a synth-pop-acid-house-goth-rock-new-wave belter. My gosh, Guy McKnight knows how to write a catchy tune.

Fast forward to June 9th 2023, and New Age Paranoia, the album, was released on 9X9 Records. Three tracks from the album “Funland!”, “Killing Your Time” and “Scumbag” are almost old favourites at this point, having been released in 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively, but their familiarity doesn’t steal the show. There isn’t a track on this album that doesn’t hold its own. But before I get into some of the new stuff, I want to talk about “Scumbag”.

First of all, Guy’s vocals are astounding. While he still has that crooning depth of sound we all knew well from the EMB-LD days, a soft but roaring grittiness has developed that makes my heart ache a little, in the best of ways. This is especially impactful on “Scumbag”, a song about child sexual abuse, a topic Guy knows all too well about, unfortunately, having been abused by family members from the age of 3-14 years. The lyrics don’t focus solely on Guy’s experiences; the line “never mind she was disabled” hits hard, as do references like “seen you hanging round at the school, trying to play it cool” and “you swear you thought he was older”. It’s a difficult subject, but the song is an absolute banger: there is a sense of cathartic liberty in calling these people what they are — monsters. It’s the perpetrators that need to feel the shame, not the victims, and this song allows victims to give their trauma away, dance, and be free in the music.

Guy, who has openly discussed his battles with drug and alcohol addiction, recently celebrated an incredible 11 years of sobriety. This remarkable achievement may have been bolstered by his Buddhist practice and as a fellow Buddhist, New Age Paranoia takes on an even more profound meaning for me.

The album delves into a range of thought-provoking themes, exploring the profound impact of social media on our relationships, both with ourselves and others. In a world where adoration and fame seem to hold greater importance than ever before, the album poses important questions about our society. It scrutinises the forces that drive the normalisation of a narcissistic culture, one that places personal desires above altruism. Moreover, it delves into how technology, social media, and mass media shape our collective psyche.

Ever since I started walking this spiritual path, these themes have been on my mind. The more I try to be compassionate towards others, the more I notice how selfish and self-centred people can be. Even the people I love and know well suddenly seem different. Were they always this spoiled? Did they always talk about themselves and nothing else? Did they always carry so much ignorance and hatred? Is it just me seeing things clearly now, or has there been a big shift in the human condition? Is it just that everyone has a platform to shout their unwanted opinions these days? Well, it’s probably all those things and more. I’m definitely not the only one who’s noticed — as this album proves — and you don’t have to be spiritual to see that things are really messed up in the world right now.

Are advances in technology and social media to blame for the current state of affairs? Well, yes, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Like most things, it ultimately depends on the intentions behind their use. For instance, if I use a match to start a fire to keep my family warm, that’s an act of good intention. If I use the match to start a fire to burn someone’s house down, that’s an act of bad intention. Likewise, a knife can be used to prepare a sandwich or as a weapon to harm someone — it’s the person’s intentions that make the difference, not the tool itself.

This is where things have taken a troubling turn. Social media has become a prevalent tool through which people inflict pain and distress. What may start as seemingly harmless jokes or idle gossip can quickly escalate to serious threats, bullying, the spread of misinformation, and even promoting violent hatred. In most situations, when someone misuses a tool with ill intentions, it is taken away from them, and they face the consequences of their actions. But with social media, there is often a lack of significant consequences for misuse. As a result, the voices of the most destructive individuals now hold an amplified influence, shaping aspects of our lives such as our eating habits, self-perception, music preferences, voting decisions, and behaviour towards each other. We’ve all become desensitised to how awfully people treat each other. It becomes crucial to recognise that very little of what we see on social media truly reflects reality, yet regrettably, many individuals fail to recognise this and start emulating those with the loudest voice, harshest tone and most damaging words. Perhaps the most effective approach is to speak up, not in opposition, but with truth and compassion, kindness and respect.

That’s precisely what The DSM IV has done with New Age Paranoia. It encapsulates a collective journey of self-discovery, prompting us to question the societal currents that pull us away from compassionate living. In a world where mindfulness and introspection are increasingly vital, this album stands as a poignant testament to the power of music to illuminate and provoke meaningful dialogue.

I realise I have talked a lot about Guy’s voice, lyrics, and experiences up to this point, so it is essential to acknowledge the entire collective that comprises The DSM IV. Alongside Guy, the band consists of his partner, Jade Ormesher, on guitar, Pav Cummins on synth and Gabriel Nwosu-Hope on bass. Together they bring this awesome, unified energy you can’t help but groove to. The DSM IV’s sound is dissonant yet epic. Their tunes are like intricate puzzles, with different layers and textures coming together to create a symphony of sound. And god, those choruses are so catchy. You know like how every song released in the 80s was almost effortlessly great to dance or sing to, The DSM IV captures that essence completely. The melodic hooks captivate you and draw you deeper into their magnetic world. Needless to say, I feel this album needs to be lauded way more than it has been so far. Not just for the band themselves but for the sake of all humanity — everyone deserves to feel its joy.

I haven’t been able to pick a favourite track from New Age Paranoia. The anthemic “Killing Your Time” stirs fond memories of goth/psych/folk bands from the 90s and how great alt nights at clubs were back then. David Sylvian would be proud to release the new single “White Wolf” if it was his, and it certainly could be in another dimension. It’s a slower number that really demonstrates Guy’s vocal range. “Lions” is like XTC on acid. “Funland!” is an uplifting synth-pop classic with a chorus that will live rent-free in your head for eternity. The final track “Runaway” is my newest most-played song. If John Hughes directed The Flight of The Navigator, this would be the theme tune. It is gloriously feel-good, teen-sci-fi. In fact, let’s get it in the last season of Stranger Things. There honestly isn’t a track on the album that isn’t perfect in its composition or execution.

The DSM IV are touring now, and if I have learned anything, it’s not to allow myself to miss seeing a band I adore when the opportunity arises (ok, so something good did come from me not seeing Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster after all). I have heard fantastic things about their live shows, with Guy’s on-stage and in-crowd electricity being something everyone needs to experience. Fingers crossed there will be more dates added to the poster below soon.

The DSM IV New Age Paranoia tour poster July 2023

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