Lowell rap legend D-Tensionwas riding in an elevator in his building striking up a friendly conversation with the man riding with him. Somehow the fact that D was learning how to play the guitar came up in conversation. The man asked him what covers he was learning, and D told him he wasn’t working on covers, but instead he is writing his own songs as he learns. The man informed D that he was doing it wrong, you need to master the classics first before you can write your own music. D thanked him for the advice, and then completely ignored it, and we are so lucky that he did.
The story here is not that D-Tension the hip hop artist is making a rock record, the truth is that this is not his first time working in rock. What’s different this time is all the songs and guitarwork have been done entirely by him. At the beginning of lockdown he’d won an Instagram contest, receiving three guitars, two amps and some pedals as a prize. He started taking lessons on YouTube and whenever he learned something new he would then write a song using that lesson. The result is D-Tension’s Secret Rock & Roll Project, a sonically fantastical adventure through various realms of rock greatness.
Working with various collaborators all recording their own tracks remotely, D created a diverse yet cohesive music adventure. There are ten tracks on this release and each one is deserving of a full page review, so I’m only going to touch on some highlights even though each song on this is a pure gem and each for their own reasons.
The opener “Kenmore Square” is a battle cry of nostalgia for those of us that remember when Boston was a Rock and Roll town and not just Anywhere USA as the song suggests. This song is so full of perfect references of record stores, restaurants, bands, and clubs from Boston’s good old days. If there is a reference you do not recognize do yourself a favor and look it up, because they are all deserving of your attention. The lyrics are perfect with the sing along chorus stating “Now the Hotel Commonwealth is where my childhood went to die”. It is important to note that this song features the supergroup The Yellowshots which was a band that was formed as a result of the annual One Night Band event at The Sinclair in Cambridge. The members met each other for the 1st time that morning, wrote 4 songs and then performed them that night.
“Know No Know” is an addictive poppy earwork of a song that makes a home in one’s head, and refuses to leave. “It Ain’t All About You” is another powerhouse; a ripping metal/punk riff with killer lyrics about a drunk text form the ex. It makes its’ presence known both in the unforgiving lyrics and the blistering guitar, with backing from D-Tension’s former rock band The Dead Von Erichs.
A favorite track for me is “Joanna Strikes Back”. This is a song about an old punk girl who has moved on in life, a good job, house, family, the whole bit, but tonight she is determined to relive her past punk glory. As the song says “She got what she wanted, but she wants it all back.” With the killer refrain “Black lips, Black top, Plaid Skirt, Doc Martins, Clash Button on her chest When Joanna strikes back.” It has an oddly danceable sound reminiscent of Purple Rain-era Prince. It song rocks but can also fill up a dance floor; super funky bass kicks the song off, quickly joined by guitar and winding, Cars-esque keyboards.
The closer of this release is a beautiful masterpiece about being man enough to cry. (Aptly titles “Cry”.) A deep emotional journey into the depths of sadness, love, and loss. It features a powerful, building crescendo, which in turn makes it the perfect closer.