REVIEW: Universal Dice — Curse (SINGLE)

Colin Jordan
3 min readMar 20, 2024

Universal Dice’s “Curse” caught me a little off-guard. Rarely is a parent/child relationship depicted in such an unforgiving light and songwriter Gerry Dantone’s pared back language pierces the heart of the matter with zero pretense. It doesn’t explain everything for listeners, preferring to encourage the audience to draw their own conclusions, and the song gains added power from this decision.

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I think the accompanying arrangement is ideal for the lyrical content. It has a traditional bent, without a doubt, but the dramatic rise of the music helps accentuate the evolution of the lyrics. Dantone and his bandmates such as lead guitarist Bob Barcus, bassist Ed Canova, as well as keyboardists Vin Crici and Walt Sargent boast an audible chemistry that sustains the song from its opening notes through the conclusion.

A big reason why is because it checks every conceivable box. Fans of acoustic-based singer/songwriter material will find a lot here to love and classic rock fans will be especially drawn to lead guitarist Bob Barcus’ contributions to the cut. They are wise refraining from adding extra varnish to the percussion and, as a result, the song’s pulse has a steady and dry heartbeat that sets an authoritative tone. It helps anchor the song for me and emphasizes its solid architecture.

Dantone’s lead vocals emphasize the pain at the heart of this song. There are undercurrents of other emotions present throughout the track, but I hear him eschewing any overt displays of other emotions in favor of raw red-eyed heartache. It’s appropriate for a song about family discord on the highest level, so bad that the parents are ready to disown their child, and it’s to his credit that Dantone never plays up the melodramatic potential for such a scenario. Instead, he presents the situation in stark, unforgiving terms.

The song’s language reinforces that. It reminds me of the famed opening line from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina — “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” We aren’t privy to the source of this particular family’s unhappiness, but it runs deep. The music, especially Bob Barcus’ lead guitar, highlights that unhappiness with piercing six-string lines and phrases scattered throughout the recording. Harmony vocals, as well, strike a particularly poignant note.

It’s a poignant song from beginning to end. It also leaves me intensely curious to hear more from this release. I suspect that “Curse” is culled from a larger storyline that stretches across the entirety of the band’s upcoming collection Misfit Memoirs, but no matter if it doesn’t. There’s universality present in this song that, unfortunately, many listeners will relate to.

It’s a hallmark of the band’s work.

In close Universal Dice make music and write songs about flesh and blood human beings struggling to make sense of this weird interlude of time we call life. They aren’t writing about fast cars, fast women, bling, or politics ripped from today’s front page and often dated within a year. Their focus is on the timeless aspects of existence and “Curse” embodies that for all to hear.

Colin Jordan

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Colin Jordan

Graduate: McNeese State University, Avid Beekeeper, Deep Sea Diver & Fisherman, Horrible Golfer