DEAD – Tu Me Manques

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There was once a time when many a pop-punk band roamed the luscious green fields of the island. Wild, boisterous and armed with electric guitars and a student loan, they prowled the island in search of venues. Though they are lesser seen on our fair pastures these days, some of them are flying the flag elsewhere.

One such example is ‘Dead!’. If you were to peruse lists of Solent-based gig lineups around 2007-2011 a few names would keep cropping up time and time again. If you were in anything even remotely pop-punk or emo related and you needed a guitarist, it seemed you went to Sam Matlock. Alex Mountford’s solo tenure was doing a fine turn in upbeat, acoustic, catchy singalongs, Sam Chappell was both ruling the house-party scene as glitch DJ Casio Royale, and as the bassist for ‘The Vecks’ who would go on to play the main stage of the Isle of Wight Festival. Barely a weekend went by without seeing one of the above acts, sometimes two or three in lineups of different combinations.

In early 2012, motivated by wanting to make the sort of music they weren’t hearing live locally, they banded together to form ‘Dead!’. It’s hard to deny the success they’ve accumulated in just 2 years, having played the mainstage of Southampton’s Takedown Festival ahead of the likes of Skindred and Deaf Havana. They’ve also had a couple of sold-out nationwide tours clocking well over 200 gigs. On a personal recommendation, The gigs are legendary, if they tour near you, pick up a ticket. You won’t regret it. One of the most enthusiastic band’s I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live. Last summer’s “Beautiful Broken Bones” became worryingly apt, with the band retuning home with a crushed wrist, two popped knuckles, a shattered ankle, and a guitarist with a leg-cast. In addition to these publicly-lauded war wounds, their first EP which was generally well-recieved by critics, and this new recording has seen support and airplay from DJ’s such as BBC Radio 1 stalwarts Zane Lowe and Daniel P. Carter.

The first EP was a bedroom recorded effort, with frontman Alex on the knobs and dials. This time around on ‘Tu Me Manques’, they have banded together with Enter Shikari producer Dan Weller, and they sound a great deal better for it. Everything is polished and flows much sweeter. Whilst it looses some of the spontaneous nature of the first EP, the advances made in the quality of the sound far outweighs any negatives. Purely on a technical standpoint, this recording could go toe-to-toe with any band signed to a major label, an impressive feat for a DIY punk band.

At 6 tracks long, clocking in at 21 minutes, it sits somewhere between being an EP and an album, odd running time aside though, there’s alot to savor about this little morsel. It’s energetic, impassioned and thoroughly fun. Any band of this type performing music with dramatic flair was going to earn comparisons to ‘My Chemical Romance’, and whilst those comparisons are undeniably accurate, It’s done in a manner that, refreshingly, isn’t derivative. You can also hear cues from the likes of The Stooges, CKY and Alice in Chains here.

Opening track ‘We Are Dead’ is a good microcosm of what Alex does lyrically. The lyrics are poetic and his vocal stylings flail from measured and precise to feral and manic as required. As a group they come together best on ‘Alaska’, a more emotional effort that wears it’s heart on it’s torn denim sleeves. Alternating between tender chords feeding back into distortion, and powerful lurches forward into heavy riffage. ‘Til Next Time’ is a suitable finale, that somehow seems destined to become a lighter-lifting set closer.

This isn’t reinventing the wheel. There’s nothing new or innovative here, but what it is is well-crafted, made with love, and an enjoyable listen. It’s still early days for the lads, and for them to be this accomplished on their first album is a real gift.

‘Tu Me Manques’ is released on Itunes on February 25th, you can also pick up a physical copy at the bands shows.

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