‘Sunlight’- E.P. Review- 8.5/10
Lush, jangly, campaign-winning and a perfect antidote to Winter
Release date: Available as a download via: http://www.facebook.com/deadsocialclub/app_204974879526524
It will lift you up, make you smile, and forgot all of your woes…
This is my summation after a mere 10 seconds of listening to opening gambit, Sunlight. Dead Social Club are a London-based 6-piece ‘alt indie’ band, who have garnered many sumptuous reviews and won plaudits and fans alike. I know been aware of the band for a few weeks now, but was surprised I had not heard of them sooner. Upon studying their SoundCloud page, it attests that they have been played multiple times of BBC 6 Music and Absolute Radio and have attracted fan as far a field as the U.S. and Canada. The band have played numerous gigs and headlined summer festivals to boot. I am a little late to the party, it seems, and the fact that I have missed out on a citrus-cool, stunning band for so long, has caused discourse. I have often mooted the possibility of launching a website where it is easier to find out about new and established bands. Often, unless you are in the right place at the right time, you miss out completely. All I can say is, I am glad I have found them now!
Dead Social Club have a hint of the austere to some of their work, but generally convey a positive mood. They are an adventurous and sweet-scented band with a proficient arsenal of memorable tracks and an extraordinary credibility that puts them at the vanguard of the indie scene. The indie scene is a rush hour tube train of congested at times. There are a lot of new bands that arrive on the scene who are labelled as an indie band, but are often never heard of again. Very few stick around for a long time. To my mind, Dead Social Club, will be a name on people’s lips for many years to come.
The title track is the first track of the E.P. It is an instantly engaging, wunderkind of an intro. It begins with guitar. Sounding a little like a lighter version of Blur‘s ‘No Distance Left To Run’ it dances and insinuates itself with lustful sedition. The drums arrive to provide backing, displaying hints of The Libertines and The Cure. In my mind, it is soundtracking my summer road trip movie of a life. It is evocative of windswept highways, epic bar tales, and nubile bronzed goddesses. A lot of speculation and critique has been wavered towards the lineage of singer Paul’s vocals. The most frequent comparison is to that of Robert Smith. I can hear a fleck of the old goth master, for sure. The vocal is less candid and more youthful. It has elements of Joe Strummer, but also a little of Maximo Park. Such comparisons may be seen as inauspicious, as the band have a unique sound all of their own; such lazy labelling would belie their mandate. The U.S.P. of the song is the link-up of guitar and vocal. When the lyrics: “I don’t want to hear what you’re thinking” are sung, the accompanying music does not over-enforce the sentiment, giving greater resonance to the words themselves. The track bubbles and at times sounds a little like a redux of ‘Friday I’m In Love’. No that that’s a bad thing; I can just hear some similarities in the track’s progression and overall sound. Special kudos for the drumming in this track, which is solid and unregimented throughout. It is a brilliant introductory song. Although the lyrics have an anger, desire (“Just drag me back to London”) and regret (“I’ve never felt so blue”) to them, the mood is not repressed and downbeat. It is an honest and open song with a tight band performance that will definitely prick up your ears and spark your interest.
‘Stockholm’ arrives next. It begins with a bulletproof and rapid drumbeat, that reminds me of the likes of Inxs, Blondie, U2, and ABC. The ensuing vocal, however, is similar to none of them. It is strong, focused, and powerful. Little flecks of ’80s Duran Duran come through in the guitar. It is an intoxicating and nascent mix, that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. “Keeps me on this island” is a lyric that is repeated, and there is a sense of dislocation and “hostages call it innocence” adds a lemon twist, to the cocktail. Vocals, like Sunlight, are terrific. At once calm and measured, the next impassioned and frightened. There are suggestions of ’80s front-men such as Tony Hadley, and to my mind, Paul could easily be on a level par, with regards to his semi-operatic tones. ‘Stockholm’ is the longest track of the E.P. It is not a track, mind, that outstays its welcome as it goes through a series of shifts and gear changes, and packs a lot of weight and punch in. Around about 3:00, the track slows, to leave guitar, bass and drum to give a metronomic cadence. Just when you think we are in calmer seas, the drums pound furiously and bare-chested; the mood becomes almost unbearably tense, to the point of explosion, before the front-man returns to the fray, to restore semblance of balance. There are little guitar spurts, indebted to Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take Me Out’, during the final hurdles, and I would give special mention to the band performance as a whole. It is an incredibly tight and homogeneous performance, but it is the guitar work in the track that compels me most. It is innovative, structured and unpredictable at the same time.
Completing our tour is a visit to the wonderfully-titled, and ambiguous ‘This Painting Is Cursed’. It is a beautiful fenestration into the window of Dead Social Club’s mindset. Beginning as it does with an introduction of deserted end-of-the-pier organ, and emerging from its cocoon, a variegated sabre-toothed butterfly, the song hooks you in. I hope the band won’t mind me saying, but is has influences of The Cure to it, as well as Joy Division. As the lines ‘Close your eyes/settle down now’, the vocal is strong and authoritative, and the entire track is a compact, homunculus of a song, clocking in at under 3-and-a-half minutes long. The outro/coda as well is brilliant, containing a slight influence of Two Dancers-era ‘Wild Beasts’.
Overall this is an impressive and dominant display of individual talent, and tight kinship. Influences and style icons are not employed for fashion or shock value, they are part of the band’s upbringing but are not superior to their individual voice of originality. In fact it is due to such a melting pot of influences that such a fascinating progeny is born. The song titles are diverse and fascinating, and the band are tight and compelling throughout. I was impressed not only but the vocals on the E.P. but the entire band. The individual players are at the top of their game, and provide stunning backing. The lyrics are intelligent, sardonic, poetic, thought-provoking and deep, which contrasts perfectly with the music, which is often lighter and more stoic. The whole E.P. is focused and concentrated, with no wasted words or notes. It was a pleasure to listen to.
If I were to point at some suggestions, it would be that some of the lyrics were hard to hear. Sometimes it was hard to decipher what was being sung, whether the vocals need to be mixed higher into the final edit, or was for some other reason, I occasionally strained to understand what was being said. Also, I feel that the final track is a little welterweight, when compared to its predecessors. The instrumentation for me is king on that track and would have been great maybe to have heard a fourth track, as there would have been room for it.
Those are minor subjective quibbles, as it is a riveting and information E.P., and provides much needed rays of sun, light and warmth to many cold hands and cold hearts. ‘Sunlight’ has been out for a couple of months now, and I would recommend highly that you give it a listen, as I guarantee…
… Dead Social Club will brighten your day.
Key Track: ‘Sunlight’