Album Review: DMA’s - 'MTV Unplugged'

Following a marvellous second studio album in 2018, a lively promotional tour, and a number of sold out shows in early 2019, this MTV Unplugged album seems to sum up what a year it’s been for DMA’s. Now with the release of such a prestigious album, the trio join the likes of Nirvana, R.E.M., and Oasis (to name but a few) in the Unplugged hall of fame, becoming one of the first Australian bands to do so. Having an opportunity to showcase the versatility in their sound and layering of their music, this album is sure to put DMA’s on the map wherever places lay unpinned.

Already being a fan myself, seeing how many songs are covered and the variety chosen had me intrigued to hear how they had adapted these songs. However, it feels that the band haven’t just given us some stellar performances, but have added these sometimes subtle layers to really change the feel and tone of the songs, exploring more with some folky guitar rhythms. Frontman Tommy O’Dell’s vocals are highlighted perfectly and are a true credit to his sound and the band’s lyricism. The musicianship behind these compositions proves DMA’s are here to stay and have a lot more to give us as artists, by giving us just a taste of what they are capable of.

The album opens with what is usually a lively composition of ‘Feels Like 37.’ The somewhat spritely, familiar guitar riff maintains the song’s upbeat feeling, yet the revised composition really showcases the song for any fresh ears to appreciate the musicianship of the trio, while appealing to familiar ears through this revised breakdown of familiar riffs and hooks; a perfect way to introduce what to expect with this Unplugged album. What follows are some impressive musical ensembles with favourites such as ‘Lay Down,’ ‘Time and Money,’ as well as pre-released ‘In the Air.’ It’s particularly impressive that the upbeat rhythms are maintained through these deconstructions, while the poetic lyricism is poignant and really sticks with the listener afterwards – the unplugged versions still retain that classic DMA’s head-nodding feel. 

To compliment the features from their existing discography, the trio bless us with a cover of Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger,’ again released prior to the full album. To anyone unfamiliar with the song, this construction really makes it sound like a DMA’s original. From the rhythmic acoustic guitar and up-tempo percussion, to O’Dell’s smooth and resonant vocals, it really seems to highlight the band’s ability to make any composition their own. For me, this cover is a real high point of the Unplugged album and is sure to convince any listener of the Aussies’ talents.

What follows is more favourites from the band’s musical archive, with ‘The End’ debuting live. As to be expected the band did not disappoint, with the haunting lyricism taking centre-stage, complimented by Mason and Took’s guitar and piano accompaniment. ‘In the Moment’ follows soon after, with it’s riff changing to a deeper, legato sound, changing the song’s resonance completely. The country-inspired elements continue to be highlighted through songs like ‘Step Up The Morphine’ and ‘Delete’ through the orchestral aids and deep twangy guitar riffs.

Ending with ‘Do I Need You Now,’ O’Dell’s vocals are incomparable with his studio-self, not faulting for a minute and retaining tonal perfection, but yet having a haunting echo only achievable through live revisions such as these; a perfect choice to end on. It is these unique live qualities that really make this album special, and a total game-changer for DMA’s.

The album releases this month on July 12th and is an absolute must-listen for anyone and everyone, sure to set the band in perfect stead for a great remainder of 2019.