It will be a rebuilt Dumptruck that rolls into town for shows Friday at Club Lingerie and Saturday at Big John's in Anaheim.
The Boston band has been modified 50% with new parts: Bassist Michael Priggen and guitarist Kirk Swan left Dumptruck last year and were replaced by Tom Shad and Kevin Salem, respectively. They join remaining members Shawn Devlin on drums and guitarist-singer Seth Tiven.
Considering that Swan formed the band in 1983 with Tiven and shared the composing and singing responsibilities with him, his departure might raise questions about the horsepower of this year's model.
But the group's solid new album "for the country" pretty well addresses--and discharges--those questions. And Tiven, now firmly and exclusively in Dumptruck's driver's seat, maintains that the split from Swan was unavoidable.
"There were artistic differences and there were personal differences. And it just built up to the point where the differences outweighed the things we had in common," Tiven said.
"When we started the band we were really good friends, and we wanted to do a lot of the same things musically. But as time went by we just went off in different directions musically.
"I mean, if we were still getting along well, it might have worked out; or if, musically, we were really tightly aligned but not getting along, it probably still would've worked out. But it just reached a point where there wasn't that much left holding it together between me and him."
At least Swan left on an up note, in the wake of the low-profile success that greeted the group's previous album, "Positively Dumptruck." Produced by Don Dixon (R.E.M., Smithereens, et al), "Positively" earned enthusiastic praise in critical circles and heavy air play on college radio. And the record won Dumptruck the Best Independent Album Award last spring at the Boston Music Awards.
On "for the country," Dumptruck has opened up its approach considerably, roaming over far more musical terrain than on its two previous releases, "d is for dumptruck" and last year's "Positively Dumptruck."
The new collection moves gracefully from the atmospheric contemplation of "Brush Me Back," to the harder-rocking "Wire" to the breezy, propulsive pop of the first single "Going Nowhere"--the last two laced with zesty pedal-steel picking.
As the album touches these assorted musical bases, one wonders if the increased variety merely reflects the natural growth of the band, or if it's the product of Tiven's new-found freedom--now that he no longer has to agree or compromise with Swan.
Said Tiven, "I think it's a combination of both things. There's definitely more freedom now. The whole band is a lot more open to trying things."
Tiven said that previously, new ideas or suggestions would often be vetoed immediately if they sounded even vaguely unworkable.
"Whereas," he said, "pretty much the rule that we go by in this band is that if someone comes up with an idea, we try it out and everyone puts as much as they can into it. Then we decide if it's a (good) idea or not."
Of course, since Tiven is now the group's sole tunesmith, he generates most of these "good ideas." And even those he doesn't generate are filtered through his sensibility before they become Dumptruck songs.
Another result of his grabbing all the creative reins is a brighter spotlight on the sizable cross-section of influences that inform his songwriting. But he's skittish about discussing them specifically.
"There are a lot of songwriters who have influenced me, I suppose," Tiven, 30, said. "But it's just hard to pick out any one or two--or six--and say, 'Well, these songwriters have influenced me,' 'cause then people peg you on that."
In the course of explaining why he preferred not to cite influences or favorite songwriters, he actually cited some--from the first two Stooges records to Phil Ochs' work--confirming that his tastes and inspirations run quite a gamut.
Acknowledging the breadth of this spectrum, and what, for him, links one end to the other, he said, "It's more an attitude of how the songs are written (that's important) than what's actually in the song."
It's another attitude--the perils of being pegged--that led to the band's unusual moniker. "I think we were just walking down the street and a dump truck went by. . . . It sort of came up as a name we could live with at the time," he said. "It didn't have any real negative or positive connotations. It was just a name. That's what we wanted.
"It's really hard to find a name that doesn't peg you as a punk band or a psychedelic band or a new- wave band. We didn't want something that was going to link us with anything or pigeonhole us or restrict us at all."