When Dispatch went on “indefinite hiatus” around a decade ago, it broke the hearts of a lot of fans. Since that time, we’ve had very few opportunities to see them, with the notable exception of the “Dispatch: Zimbabwe” benefit shows in Madison Square Garden in 2007. But after throwing us a bone with a new EP last year, the Dispatch reunion is now complete with their first full studio release in 12 years, Circles Around the Sun.
Dispatch has always practiced the art of genre-bending, but perhaps the best way to describe their sound is “roots” or “indie-jam.” Whatever you call it, their sound has resonated with a huge fan base around the world. To give you an idea of how “huge”—the band’s free farewell show, dubbed “The Last Dispatch,” held in Boston in July 2004, was expected to draw around 30,000 people. It drew an estimated 166,000, giving Dispatch the distinction of playing the largest independent show in history.
It goes without saying that a lot of people have been looking forward to Circles Around the Sun for a long time. Thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint.
What makes this record interesting is that it doesn’t try to mimic the sound and vibe that first brought Dispatch its popularity—but neither is it a complete reincarnation. It still sounds like Dispatch; perhaps a good description would be “Dispatch 2012” rather than “Dispatch 2002”—and for that reason it marks a true reboot. Circles has a fuller, richer, more mature sound than its predecessors, one that isn’t saying, “Hey, remember what we were back then?” but rather, “This is who we are now, and we’re moving forward from here.” From the hard-hitting opening tracks “Circles Around the Sun” and “We’re Not Messin’” to the relaxed tones of “Josaphine” to the passionate “We Hold a Gun,” the track list of Circles points more forward than backward, not just giving us more great music to embrace, but also giving us hope that we have a lot more to look forward to in the days ahead from this band.
Dispatch is planning a full tour starting next month, with a dollar from each ticket supporting the band’s charity Amplifying Education. I, for one, am really glad these guys are back, and I’m looking forward to seeing them live.