Some reviews are easier than others. Take for example The XX, or Bonobo; you can sit down, listen to the album, light a candle and chill the frick out whilst penning your thoughts. This is what’s known as Rest and Review (R&R, if you will): You can review with the album on in the background. Dead! Do not allow such a luxury. In reviewer’s tongue, they are what’s known as revolt then review (R&ARGHH, if you will.)
Dead! (a new-to-the-scene punk-rock quartet from the Isle of White) have made music to mosh to in their debut The Golden Age of Not Even Trying. I tried writing with the album on, but before the end of their premier track, ‘The Boys + The Boys’, I had singlehandedly stopped the US President’s visit to the country and successfully tipped over 3 bins in an act of rock-inspired revolution.
Speaking of the title track, what’s instantly apparent are Dead!’s influences – a merge between Royal Blood, early Muse and Billy Talent. The rhythm section is pure snare drum and open hi-hat action. It instantly punches, and starts as the album means to go on. This is followed up by ‘Enough, Enough, Enough’ (which could easily be titled ‘More, More, More’, as the best song on the record) – it is fast-paced and gives a real insight into the lifestyle changing in moving from the Isle of White to the capital.
The album’s nominal track, ‘The Golden Age of Not Even Trying’, is a quandary in a conundrum. Firstly, I propose that the title be changed, or more specifically, be lengthened to something akin to “The Golden Age of Not Even Trying (Not to Steal the Introductory Drum Beat from Blur’s Song 2)”. Once you get over this initial shock, the song is actually quite pleasing – it offers a less punk-orientated approach present in the preceding two songs, leaning more towards the rock-pop revolution of the mid-to-late noughties.
A legitimate concern is the album’s progression, or lack thereof. Nowhere is this more apparent than slap-bang in the album’s mid-drift. Over the course of tracks 4 to 7, ‘Jessica’, ‘Off White Paint’, ‘You’re So Cheap’, ‘Petrol and Anaesthetic’, you can’t help but feel you are listening to remixes of similar sounding songs, without the energy or anger present in the album’s podium tracks, and are dangerously close to drifting off into boredom. (In the song “Off White Paint”, I actually noticed that my bedroom walls were actually painted an off white; this is not a good realisation to ever have in a song that’s meant to sustain your interest).
The album gets back on track with the songs ‘Up for Ran$om’ (If you are expecting an A$AP Rocky style track on account of the $ sign, you will be disappointed) and ‘W9’. Whilst ‘Up for Ran$om’ returns to the punk style of ‘Enough, Enough, Enough’, W9 is what the listener has really been w8ing for. It demonstrates a different style which Dead! are more than capable of perfecting – instead of pushing the beat, they sit behind the rhythm, switching to a 3/4 time signature, rather than everyone’s favorite 4/4, with a vocal performance reminiscent of My Chemical Romance’s “The End”. You can’t help but feel that most of Dead!’s experimentation with their sound has wound its way up in “W9”, and ultimately you wish that they’d saved some of this creative outpouring for the album’s middle or the next two tracks, ‘Conversation with Concrete’ and ‘Any Port’.
The album finishes on a high note with “Youth Screams and Fades”. I was actually exceptionally vexed by this title, as it pretty much sums up the album pretty succinctly, in far fewer words than I could. I’ve sat here for a while now, defeated.
Was this deliberate from Dead!? Was this an über-elaborate ploy to write an album that they themselves review in the last song far better than I ever could? If so, does this immense foresight shown in the record’s creation give it more artistic credibility than it already has? I don’t know.
What I do know, however, is that the ultimate track is a fitting ode to Dead!’s debut album. It even ticks every reviewer’s favorite check-box – a highly distorted voice recording which ends with the name of the song as the end of the album. BOOYAH. (We love this sort of thing.)
Upon reflection, “The Golden Age of Not Even Trying” can ultimately be deemed a success for Dead! – as a young band, they have channeled their energy and anger into a musical from that is both raw and visceral. Whilst sometimes their sound can be too heavily influenced by other artists, including the aforementioned Royal Blood and Billy Talent, songs such as “W9” and “Enough, Enough, Enough” are evidence for the possibility of the creation of a distinctly Dead! sound. Whilst “The Golden Age of Not Even Trying” may not set the world alight, Dead! are certainly a band to watch out for.