It can be hard to look past the sonic palette Dikembe uses on Hail Something. The last half-decade has seen its fair share of ‘90s-inspired rock records, but that inspiration has usually taken the form of Pinkerton-esque power pop (like what the Sidekicks achieve on “Grace”) or haze and emotional distance straight from the My Bloody Valentine school of detached guitar music (Pity Sex do this especially well on this year’s White Hot Moon). Simply by pulling from a different set of influences, Dikembe distance themselves from their peers at the outset. Hail Something’s path to ‘90s reverence is through a combination of second-wave grunge and weary dissonance.

The opening moments of the record’s title track are something of a head-fake; a slightly-echoed guitar lead suggests emo revival before chunky, mid-tempo riffs kick the song into a different direction. It’s the kind of thing that a band throws into a record as a bone to older fans, a reminder that they too remember when they sounded like that. By the time lead singer Steven Gray’s vocals, which waver between husky and tiny, sigh their way into the track, you can almost see the Seattle skyline and waves of flannel before the song’s last notes ring out. It’s hard to remember the last time a modern rock band has bit this hard into straightforward grunge.

Hail Something is more than just the second coming of Sponge, though. Throughout the record, the band plays with moments of calculated atonality. The tempo-shifting, stumbling drums and nonchalant guitar riffs that string “Like an Archer” together recall the exploratory nature of Archers of Loaf. It’s exciting to hear the band move through a song like “Earth Around Me;” in different hands, it could be a big-ticket emo-revival hit, but Dikembe seem to be trying for a different outcome by purposefully knocking the cathartic wind from the song’s sails through breaks, extended verses and sharper guitars than what’s normally called for. It is as if the group is committed to communicating its message of exhaustion by shaving off any opportunity to be overtly uplifting or positive.

That sourness is refreshing, but not everlasting. For every stabbing shamble like album highlight “The Fix”—a song which sounds like very young people making a song about being very old in the best possible way—there are more straightforward tracks like “All Wrong” and “Creature of the Week” that seem almost like a hedging of bets. Sure, there’s a relief in hearing something straightforward and crashing like “Creature,” but there are also a thousand other songs that sound like it. What the world needs more of is minor-chord sourness like “Awful Machine.” Also, as long as nits are being picked, Dikembe could stand to start fewer songs with repetitive palm-muting.

There is a muddiness to Hail Something that can be distracting. It might be a foible of production or it might be a by-design feature of the record, but the guitar tone, which is chunky and heavily distorted, will immediately stick with the listener. That tone can wear on a person over time, but it also feels like a rediscovery. There’s no shame in recreating the ‘90s; more bands should look to its fringes like Dikembe has done.

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