Dan Luke and the Raid solidify sound with debut album

Herald Features Editor Griffin Fletcher holds his vinyl copy of Dan Luke and the Raid’s debut LP, “Out Of The Blue.”

Griffin Fletcher

When I first heard of Bowling Green rock band Dan Luke and the Raid over two years ago, I was told “Dan Luke” was the name of the band’s frontman and rhythm guitarist, Daniel Shultz.

If that name sounds familiar, perhaps you’ve heard of Cage the Elephant, the Bowling Green band to end all Bowling Green bands. Shultz is the younger brother of Matt and Brad Shultz, founding members of the Grammy Award-winning group.

Cue the comparisons.

As I walked into Mellow Matt’s Music and More this past Friday on a cool and drizzly evening to purchase Dan Luke and the Raid’s debut album, “Out Of The Blue,” which was released Friday, I’d be lying to say comparisons weren’t on my mind as well. A signed artist on Nashville record label New West Records and likely the city’s best shot at a new music made-it in nearly a decade, I expected something special from the group — something professional.

After opening my new vinyl copy of “Out Of The Blue,” things were off to a nice start. Pressed into clear vinyl injected with blue dye, which forms a unique swirl on each copy, the record compelled me to play it.

I did so for the first time seated beside my best friends in a room lit with some overhanging Christmas lights. I had waited all day for what would come next.

Despite a total runtime of just 31 minutes, the project packs its 10 tracks with goodness from all directions, first catching fire with track one, “Farrah Mantra.” After an initial set of what sound like jabs of static, the song proceeds with a pulsing bassline and Shultz’s echoey, boom-and reverb-laden vocals — a defining characteristic of the project.

To top it off, the song features one of the album’s catchiest vocal melodies (if not the catchiest) during its chorus, which includes brief vocal track soloing to goad anticipation after hair-raising lyrics such as “You won’t ever see me / When the sun is out / All I ever do / Is pace around my house.”

Shultz explained the album as an elucidation of “a post-coming of age crisis” in a July 2019 Billboard article. This is perhaps most obvious in the album’s standout track, “Golden Age,” a song the band initially released as a single in 2017 but since removed from streaming platforms.

Featuring everything from tempo changes to dubbed sounds of an electric “whip” achieved by kicking over a live amp while recording, the track is the album’s longest at four minutes and 15 seconds. However, it’s also quite possibly its most compositionally intriguing. The song pops, drags then hits overdrive again and again, leaving listeners both riled up and maybe a tad drained if they listen closely enough.

From lyrics as overt as “Coming of age” to others more nuanced such as “We got nowhere to stay / We have to keep on running / Don’t fall on your face / Keep messing with the golden age,” the song is a manifestation of the regret, fear and teetering collapse which tend to accompany adolescents as they settle into adult life — or push against it.

Shultz doesn’t shy away from detailing the harsh reality such a dilemma might include, spitting lines about living off pocket change and waking up flat on his face with a kind of Brooklyn-esque swagger.

The album’s third track, “Exoskeleton,” also merits attention. The song’s incontestable highlight is a quick-picked guitar riff recorded by guitarist Dylan Graves, which anchors the track and helps it achieve earworm status.

With over 100,000 plays on streaming service Spotify just three months since its release as a single in July, the song is a prime demonstration of Graves’ musical prowess. In April, just three months before the single’s release, Graves died from injuries sustained during a work-related incident at just 22 years old.

In remembrance, the band dedicated the album to Graves and recorded a music video for “Exoskeleton” in Graves’ hometown, Franklin.

When I finished listening to both sides of “Out Of The Blue” for the first time, I listened again. I listened for a third time a little while later, and I’ve been listening ever since.

From its distinctly trebly guitar tones, deceivingly intricate bass grooves, punchy drums and drenching of ever-boomy vocals, the album sounds like if Mac Demarco circa “Salad Days” committed to writing surf rock with an alt-rock leaning. It’s no doubt with the help of Brad Shultz, who produced the project, the band found a sound now its own.

If you find yourself wondering how said sound can seem so vintage yet new at the same time, don’t be alarmed. Just roll with what “Out Of The Blue,” which included tracking from members Anthony Joiner (bass) and Kendrick Don-Reid Brent (drums), is dishing out.

In rating the album from one star to five stars, lowest to highest, I’d give it a solid four. Though the album’s unabating vocal echo sometimes muddies tracks excessively, the shrill guitar at points shrieking a little too sharply, the project exceeded my expectations and laid groundwork for the making of another Bowling Green breakthrough.

If I had space to write in depth about every song on the record, I would. And if I could accurately express in writing how much I enjoyed listening to a product with dreams-making potential the day it debuted — a product from a local band, no less — I’d do that too.

Dan Luke and the Raid is currently touring the U.S. and has not announced a Bowling Green release show date. Check out the band at its website, danlukeandtheraid.com, and social media @danluketheraid.

Features Editor Griffin Fletcher can be reached at [email protected].