For Fans Of
One thing I’ve noticed about my musical tastes is that I’m very much into the far ends of spectrums. Meaning, I love my music either insanely dishevelled, chaotic and noisy or as melodic, bright and as beautiful as it can possibly be. For example, The Chariot’s ‘Long Live’ is easily in my top five albums of all time, sitting right alongside Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ as well. The further in that parameter you go, the more I tend to wane and fluster when it comes to enjoyment as bands begin to mix the “loud and the harsh” with the “pretty and the lush”. It’s often never done right though, as it usually just ends up as trite, clean-chorus-laden metalcore or basic-bitch melodic hardcore; both of which I have no particular qualms with. But I’ve always searched for a perfect middle ground band to satisfy both of my personal loves and I’ve nearly always come up short. Until I heard ‘The Golden Age Of Not Even Trying’, the new debut record from Dead!
Look, I was just straight up not expecting to love this record as fucking much as I did. No red flag against Dead!, I’ve really enjoyed they’re previous releases a whole lot, I just didn’t think that this would be any different. But goddamnit, upon my first listen to the U.K. punk’s debut LP, I was fully and utterly entranced by it. The thing that Dead! achieve so well is balance. Dead! very clearly love their punk and their hardcore as shown on the bouncy opener ‘The Boys The Boys’ and the ferocious mid-point of ‘Up for Ran$om’. They also do it so freaking well. The rhythm section of these songs alone is so well formed and meticulously played to elicit the best response possible from the listener. I dare you to try and not bop your head on the former track’s opening; it’s about as hard to avoid as not clapping during the Friends’ theme song.
At times, the band also summon up some early My Chemical Romance vibes and get their alternative rock shoes the fuck on with cuts like ‘You’re So Cheap’ and ‘Jessica’. These songs show quite clearly the keen ear these four Brits have for arena-ready choruses and hooks. The latter is groovy as absolute fuck with its filthy bass line leading the charge all throughout the song, while ‘You’re So Cheap’ conjures up images of body’s flailing and falling over one another in a crowd in an attempt to scream the words into the mic. It’s one of those songs that just really stirs something up inside of you.
Yet what’s the thing I have fallen in love with the most here? Dead! aren’t just cashing in their chips on a single influence at once, they’re letting every influence right through the floodgates altogether. And making it all work no less.
The best example is found on the tail end of the album with the tracks ‘A Conversation with Concrete’, ‘Any Port’ and closer ‘Youth Screams and Fades’. The former two are absolute standouts amongst an already standout record. The verses on ‘…Concrete’ seethe and simmer before launching into explosive choruses and bridge sections that just build and build up before giving way to a filthy guitar solo that leads us into a monolithic outro of stunning distortion. It’s a prime example of how Dead! use dissonant chord voicings and progressions to build up tension and suspense until the sheer boiling point hits where brief moments of tonality and harmony shine through like the bright sun through gloomy rain clouds. Playing around with our expectations of what chords should follow each other allows the sections when the rules aren’t being completely ignored to be spectacular and grandiose and memorable. Throw one, two or three thick layers of distortion and you have tracks that feel and sound as punk as Black Flag with choruses and melodic moments as beautiful as a Coldplay song.
The final track ‘Youth Screams and Fades’ feels like the perfect culmination and end to the crescendo of an album filled with anger and emotion as it sums up everything this band does well: loud and noisy punk rock, swimming in distortion underpinned by emotional singing and moments of a harmony that will stick with you long after it is over. Yet the song’s own crescendo after it’s immense choruses has finished is one of the most striking parts of the whole glorious rock record. And that’s why this all works. I’ve always believed that when writing a song you need to decide very early on what you want this track could and will achieve, what you want the vibe of it to be and from then on – every single fucking decision you make is to service all of that. So you must go balls to the wall and all in on the goal of achieving that desired effect.
So, when Dead! want you to get angry and riled up, they’re going to do everything in their strong songwriting power to do so. They’ll make it heavy, they’ll make their guitars scream and they will put every fibre of their being into making that happen. When they want you to sing till your lungs are bloody and raw they will craft the biggest hooks they can humanly construct. And when they want you to do both at the same time, they will do it they will pull out all of the stops and break every rule that one of my teachers taught me about keys and harmony in my Year 5 Music class and proceed to create songs that shift from heavenly beautiful to dangerously discordant in seconds, all without so much as flinching. From one listen of this album, it is so clear that Dead! didn’t stop working on these songs till they got what they exactly wanted as the effect from these twelve songs is instant and visceral and lasting. I have a literal itch to put this record on and listen to every second of it front to back; over and over and over again.
At the very real risk of sounding like some kind of old, jaded fart that comments about the “death of music” on Triple J Facebook posts, I have to admit that the days of a band pouring their heart and soul into a stellar debut album seems to more or less have gone out the window. I very rarely find myself being blown away or impressed by an artist’s debut record. Maybe it’s a sign of the current business model in which touring is where the money lies. Bands and labels just need something to release and get their wheels on their road and feet on the stage so they half-arse it, rush it or don’t fully think through the first release as to just get their name floating around. But even shit will stick to a wall if you throw it hard and frequent enough. It also appears, to me at least, that with the invention of home recording and platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud (the latter of which should’ve died last year but terrible rappers keep giving it new life), it’s so easy and tempting to release something that you get caught up in the excitement of it all that you aren’t putting out your best effort.
Yet ‘The Golden Age Of Not Even Trying’ flies in the face of that claim. This is the type of staggering debut full-length that bands need to aspire to write; not in this exact style but in the sense of effort and quality. Something that makes a bold and loud claim and feels like a powerful and cohesive body of work. Hell, even the album’s title even seems to poke fun at other bands too. Dead! have on their hands an album that is equal parts angry, violent, hypnotic and beautiful… and it’s all I have ever wanted from an album.
God, there is just so much I want to talk about with this record but I just don’t have the time or the thought to put some of my exact feelings into words. With the sharp rise of new British rock artists like Don Broco, Creeper or even You Me At Six to critical and commercial success, it’s only a matter of time before Dead! are by their sides in front of thousands of adoring fans every night, ready to sing and dance till they drop… should I say it? Fuck it, I’ll say it. Till they drop Dead!
- The Boys † the Boys
- Enough, Enough, Enough
- The Golden Age of Not Even Trying
- Off White Paint
- You’re so Cheap
- Petrol & Anaesthetic
- Up For Ran$om
- A Conversation with Concrete
- 11 Any Port
- Youth Screams & Fades
‘The Golden Age of Not Even Trying’ is out now. Please listen to it.