Nashville rock powerhouse channels post-apocalyptic Blondie sound
Nashville’s The Dead Deads are back with a new album set to release on August 25th and every tune on it reinforces what I’ve been saying since the first time I heard them; here is a band destined for international stardom. That isn’t to say they aren’t already a big deal, they absolutely are. Local and regional favorites, they have one highly successful national tour to their credit so far, a fantastic stage presence/persona, and are extremely gifted as writers and performers.
What sets them apart, what says to me that they aren’t half way to where they will eventually be is their drive to constantly hone those skills. Too many bands struggle for a taste of success and once finding it, languish in a comfort zone of “having arrived.” Not so for The Dead Deads, as these ladies are hungry and it shows nowhere so much as in this new collection of music, For Your Obliteration.
The first track, “Headcase,” comes crashing out of the gate like some post-apocalyptic Blondie that is much heavier, much darker, and much meaner than anything Debbie Harry ever did (and I love Debbie Harry.) The irresistible wall of throbbing, driving sound produced by bass, guitar and drums blurs the lines between hard rock and straight-up, head banging heavy metal, counterpointed by silvery vocals that, while sweet on the surface, hint at a great deal of raw power just below the surface.
“Blackout” is a straight shot of adrenaline. Moving at breakneck speed from beginning to end, the anthem sounds like it would be exhausting to play, but even sitting in my office with the headphones I can’t help but see an arena full of frenzied fans fist-pumping in unison and screaming a response to the call coming from the stage.
The band has an incomparable skill for mixing genres. Listening to the opening strains of “Murder Ballad,” I thought, “You know, call it punk, call it hard rock, but when I was a much younger man this is what we called metal,” and then without warning the tune unexpectedly shifted directions in to what is best described as summer time sixties pop. Minus the fact that it is a love note to a homicidal maniac, this could have been a Phil Spector tune. Come to think of it, I’m not sure the lyrics really disqualify it anyway. Like a master chef in the kitchen, the band combines disparate ingredients to produce an unexpectedly delicious masterpiece.
“We Are Kings” is, I think, what the Go Go’s would have sounded like had they stayed with their punk roots instead of moving in to the power-pop new wave direction for which they are best known. Bowie-esque guitar riffs lead to guttural verses which then give way to thick, unison-voiced choruses. This song, like many on the album, feels dynamically as though it could have been written as two separate tunes though the sum of those parts would not have been nearly so powerful as the whole we are treated to in the final version. The Dead Deads don’t write songs, they craft them and I am filled with admiration for their craftsmanship.
There is so much more material on this album than there is space to tell about it. “Sympathy Sex” is currently available on the band’s Facebook page. “Honeysuckle Sam” is another of those especially clever tunes that leads you down one rabbit hole before suddenly taking a left turn into what I presume is bunny hell. “Animals,” “True Love,” there is so much gorgeous material here; this is one of the freshest, most rewarding albums I’ve heard all year.
I hear a lot of bands, and many of them are very good. More than a few are good enough to go all the way, but if I had to put money on one band and one band only to “make it” to the top, The Dead Dead’s are the band to bet on. August 25th is the official release date, but the actual release party is August 26th at J.J.’s Bohemia and tickets are available now and if I haven’t made it entirely clear yet, what that means is that one of the hottest new acts in the country is going to be releasing one of the hottest albums of the year at one of Chattanooga’s most beloved music venues. You OWE it to yourself to see the show.