A clean slate

Tomorrow in Review provides two local band veterans with a new sense of musical freedom

Tomorrow in Review members Douglas Deibel, left, standing in Schlitz shirt, and Shawn Richardson, right.

Tomorrow in Review members Douglas Deibel, left, standing in Schlitz shirt, and Shawn Richardson, right.

8:30 p.m. Friday, September 10; at the Boardwalk, 9426 Greenback Lane in Orangevale; with MC Lars, Self Against City, Farewell Unknown and 5 Steps to Consciousness; $10.

The gallery owner was adamant. “Clean it up!” he was telling two musicians who were setting up to play music outside his 20th Street art gallery during a Second Saturday earlier this summer.

“Check! Check!” one of the musicians, Douglas Deibel, spat into the microphone. It was standard procedure for a sound check, but the neighboring gallery owner would have none of it. He wanted the scatological references stopped, right then and there.

Anyone who knows Deibel would laugh. The singer-guitarist, who fronted a local pop-punk band called Willknots for years, isn’t the type of guy prone to random public outbursts of profanity. And especially when he was making one of his first public appearances in Tomorrow in Review, a new duo configuration he’d recently put together with Shawn Richardson, another singing and guitar-playing veteran of Willknots.

What happened was that Deibel got tired of competing in the rigidly defined and heavily trafficked pop-punk format, and he felt like the stylistic parameters of his former band were keeping its members from growing artistically. “We kinda got where we wanted to distance ourselves from the genre we were in,” he explained, “and wanted to write music for music’s sake. We really wanted to start over, musically.”

Richardson and Deibel began writing together again and realized that their newfound musical freedom was a good thing, so they recorded a full-length album, the just-released Imperfect:Beautiful. “That album just kind of came out of a month of writing sessions with Shawn and I,” Deibel said, “and we’re pretty happy that it didn’t have a pigeonholed sound.”

A track from the album, “Static,” has been getting some airplay on KWOD in recent weeks, and that station invited the duo, since expanded to a full band, to play its stage at the recent 2004 Vans Warped Tour at Sleep Train Amphitheatre.

If anything, Imperfect:Beautiful benefits from the lack of self-censorship that Richardson and Deibel gave the new material. Un-tethered from the commercial-sounding four-on-the-floor succinctness of their former band, the duo came up with nine original songs reminiscent of the poppier efforts of early Yes—at least in the way that the songs cycle around without getting anchored to a boilerplate verse-chorus-rinse-repeat structure. The soaring vocal intervals and harmonies over energetically strummed guitars don’t work all the time, and there are occasional melodic redundancies from song to song, but you can tell there’s a newfound sense of exuberance at work here.

But, in sync with current 1980s nostalgia, there are also nods to the Cure, in the Robert Smith-like vocal yelps, and other Reagan-era favorites. And the album’s next-to-last track, “Anything,” is a cover of the Anglophile fashion-pop band Dramarama’s 1985 underground hit “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You).” But Tomorrow in Review gives the song an original rendering.

The new band already has launched a well-designed Web site, at www.tomorrowinreview.com, with a clearly defined graphic identity, much like Willknots had. That should come as no surprise; Deibel is a graphic artist at a local ad agency by day. “Obviously, that has a lot of fringe benefits for being in a band,” he said. One of Deibel’s recent designs was Jackie Greene’s newest album, Sweet Somewhere Bound, certainly one of the more attractive CD packages to come out of this town. And he’s helped a few other local acts out graphically, too. “I see bands that I know didn’t have the money to go out and hire somebody to do their artwork,” he said. “I know how it is, being in a band: You don’t have a lot of money; you spent all your money on recording, and you’re just hoping to press a thousand CDs. You’re not able to pay a lot to have a designer do your packaging.”

Deibel didn’t say whether he works for charity; most likely, he doesn’t. He merely likes to make sure his friends have something cool, visually. And that sharing of talents common to the do-it-yourself side of independent music-making does have an upside, at least when you’re trying to establish a new band. Sudden good fortune could come at any moment.