The cover of Lyric Dubee’s fourth album, Combat of Love, breeds questions like urgent screams in the mind of the observer. Is this what Kurt Cobain would have looked like if he had grown up happy? Is this what Bryan Adams would have looked like if he was born 40 years later and had started out in his native Ontario? Is the femininity displayed in this photograph just part of an ’80s-esque stage persona, or is it more personal?
Lyric’s official bio proclaims that he mastered jazz, rock, and many other genres at a young age—he’s currently 17—and that now he espouses his own genre of “revolution rock.” From a more scientific perspective, his music mostly consists of a fusion of pop-rock and ’80s metal guitars.
With vocal tones reminiscent of those of Ed Sheeran and Passenger, and delivery similar to that of groups like One Direction, Dubee can appeal to millions of screaming teenage girls with sensitive pop anthems. Wielding his guitar like a young Richie Sambora, he essentially incorporates a timely hybrid of the most successful musical offerings of the ’80s, with occasional nods to musicians’ musicians like Rush and Radiohead. The intro to Combat’s second track, “15 Feet Away,” bears much more than a slight resemblance to the first few bars of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” The 12 tracks on the album mostly stand out as radio-friendly and soundtrack-ready anthems that are at once substantial enough to be dissected and gentle enough to serve as background music.
Dubee could well be the next Jon Bon Jovi: equally at home and confident writing his own songs, composing with others, and performing in various genres like the seasoned entertainer that he already is. It’s when he steps out of his comfort zone, however, that he truly lets his genius bloom. In “Song For You,” his willingness to take it down quite a few notches in speed, bring in a piano, and opt for a sensitivity similar to a slower Savage Garden song, is a move that really lets his strengths be highlighted by his vulnerability. And on the album’s closer “Soundscape City,” he introduces elements of EDM for the first time—a playful hint at “the future,” both metaphorical, and hypothetically, regarding his own career. He sings the first few lines in a hoarse whisper, before finally admitting, “I don’t know where to go.”
Of course, the young Lyric surely does know where to go. With the restlessness of his musical exploration—four albums into his career, before the age of 18—he has already accomplished the difficult task of building public anticipation to find out what his next destination will be.
In the meantime, there’s enough aural meat on Combat of Love to satisfy most fans of pop-rock, even through repeated listens.
Combat of Love out now.