It is one thing to use the age old line that music saved you, acted as a form of redemption and was the catalyst to turn your life around. It is a concept that has become so linked to the back story of a middle-class, comforted and closeted pop wannabe on TV talent shows that it has lost a lot of its meaning. But when D.Ni.L uses such a line you have to believe him. Why? Because he has spent the last few years documenting his struggles, the dark times and the journey towards the light of a more balanced and positive life, on a series of albums, Boy. Inside being the third. The proof is there for all to hear and rather than the usual spiel that some self-aggrandising gangster rapper or rock fantasist might try to pass off as their story, this is the stuff of life…real life.
His three releases show an interesting musical progression, blending in various measures rapped deliveries and dark EDM, raw edged indie and gritty alternative rock, a fascinating musical learning curve worn, like his lyrics, on his sleeve for all to see. Boy. Inside is the logical conclusion of that musical exploration to date and it has that feeling of an artist who only learned enough of the rules so he knew which ones to ignore, or at least bend.
And so musically it is a very varied and eclectic beast. Without You is a typical example of this wilful avoidance of the tried and tested, a song that runs between hard hitting, industrial strength rap and bucolic and sweet interludes, like N.W.A. having a sonic fight with Iron and Wine…if you can imagine such a thing. No? But I guess the fact that you can’t imagine what that might sound like illustrates just how clever this all is.
Summer Fool, wanders some raw rock pathways tempered by the soaring vocals that he puts on the top and the title track is exactly the shot in the arm…musically that is, that indie music has been needing for a long time. And if that all sounds a bit intense you only have to listen to In Jars or Autumn, which tip its hat to the likes of Muse as much as it does a muscled bound, nu-soul sound, to hear funky backbeats and solid grooves at work. There may be important things being said here but that doesn’t mean that the music can’t be fun.
But of course the heart and soul of the record remains the lyrics and even though he seems to have exorcised a lot of demons over the previous two releases, he still has a lot to say about the world around him, of love, life, loss and personal regrowth. It’s a great album, one that wilfully hops genres, breaks musical fences, runs amok, opens its heart, tells it like it is, is both intimate and personal but delivered in a way that has plenty to make everyone think about their own lives. It is rare that a collection of songs can be all things to all people but I can’t think of a better way of describing Boy. Inside.