‘Sandcastles’- E.P. Review
Surrey-based band, have the charm, innovation and raw mobility to rise well above the rampant competition.
Availability: ‘Sandcastles’ is available via: http://soundcloud.com/dead_cassette/sets/dead-cassette
The ‘band’ moniker produces a myriad of charitable cogitation, as to what one would have to achieve in order to be near the benchmark…
and reign amidst a swelling rank of bands in the music business. The formula in order to obtain and sculpt a musical Pillars of Hercules is five-fold. The words have to be fresh and engaging; not subject to cliche or rank hyperbole and crass perturbation. The music that bonds the words needs to contain excitement, innovation and a genuine wit; or at the very least, it needs to grip and compel, not merely wander about shyly in the background. The vocals must not be too comparable to existing muses, and have a shade of originality and development. The band have to have an intelligence and forward thinking approach to their aesthete and song/album titles. Finally, the combination of these four statutes, must combined, evoke a tingle and reverent pleasure among the listener. It can be similar to existing music without being a glib facsimile. The band has to be likeable and compel you to listen, and seek them out in the future. As quantity subjugates quality, with every passing month, the commercial and spiritual epiphany is hard to achieve. This is not a criticism. Music is a huge open market, and there is room for anyone and everyone. There are many bands that have far too many similarities to current bands, and come across as third-rate knock-off, deserving of flagellation. I have been more impressed recently about new music, than I have been at any other time in my life. If you look hard enough, and turn over ever cyber carpet and stool, searching for a gleam of gold, it can be found. Mass appeal is contingent on a communal subjectiveness, and a tantilising USP to boot. It is not found or heard of often, but sometimes you are pleasantly surprised.
Sam, Michael, Jordan and Alex, are, collectively, Dead Cassette. I have been aware of them for about a year or so, and they have a faithful, if not Bieber-proportioned following among Twitter and Facebook. But unlike the aforementioned nauseating pop moppet, the band are concerned with the business of producing commendable and authentic music, retaining a loyal band of support, whilst staunchly electioneering to a fresh democratic. They have a wide appeal in the Home Counties and environs, and are poised to take on London and farther afield. The E.P.’s creation was as a result of touring London, writing and rehearsing for 18 months. The elective spirit and blue-collar work ethic has contributed to making ‘Sandcastles’ such a memorable and standard-bearing collection of songs. The tracks gleams with foot-pounds of spark, passion and emotion and the songs will root in your brain. It was with an open-mind and open arms that I brought to my inaugural listening of the complete E.P.
Sporting a catchy and open-interpretive title, ‘El Genius’ swaggers into a dark-lit bar, dirty, used bank notes stuffed into each hand, angrily inquiring who broke the jukebox. Its intro has an ethological mystique and swagger, dusting off its bloodied knuckles, ready for another fight. It has a Hispanic fire and temperament. The guitars stutter and punch, and spit tobacco; the atmosphere ignites and propels from the get-go and has the panache and same burbling contortion that one would find on an early Queens of the Stone Age release. Barely after breathe and semblance have been fettered, the vocal line cuts the mood like a knife. It is spirited and enunciated; a curious shade of Robert Smith lingers. The guitar and percussion propelling the vocal has a bouncy mix of The Libertines, and a beta test amalgamation of Graham Coxon, Johnny Marr, and Jimmy Page. I was impressed by seeming perpetual motion of the music on this track. The percussion faithfully keeps the beat, whilst encouraging new avenues and punk-era reminiscence; the guitars chop and change and figure out daring and unusual positions as the track progresses. It is a fervent and intoxicating blend. The theme seems to pivot around the idea of a loser and deplorable central figure, whom seems to offer nothing but derision and embarrassment. The band punctuate their summations with punch, and a smiling-nod to ‘Prince Charming’, to my ear: “Time is up/Time is up/Criticise your/Criticism”, is an early lyrical snippet. The protagonist was seemingly “misunderstood by the masses”, and “not to be one to be denied attention”, the vivid storytelling paints pictures of tragic tableaux, free from Esotericism; there is a universal theme to the words: we all know someone like this! At times the guitars have a flavour of Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party, but carry the mildest flavour notes, and never sound bogged down by the sum of its parts. As I mentioned, the music changes directions and sounds with delirious abandon, yet has a propellant urgency and disciplined structure which create an intense and enigmatic mood, and let the lyrics and vocals shine when needed. Past the 2 minute mark the track nature of the beast is candle-lit with black smoke. The vocal delivery is has a woozy syncopated quality, and is simultaneously is inspired by the preceding musical star-burst, and at the same time gets ready to tee up the next. It is another contortion in a twisting, turning, kicking, punching, and finger-pointing number, that is infectious and memorable, and at 3:01, tight and focused too. 9.4
Feedback-drenched electrics and a tempestuous, bolstering percussive thud is what opens ‘Sentiment’. Soon a coordinated dalliance between electric guitar and bass comes to the fore, before the drums roll and patter manfully, teamed with electrics, to create an Omphaloskepsis and delirium-infused indie statement of intent. Again the track has a fleck of Bloc Party. But far from being a similar animal, Dead Cassette have a harder punk edge and credibility, especially to the vocals, which are a fast-paced staccato for a lot of the track. There is urgency and breathlessness throughout with such insights as “no time for commentaries” and “no time for pleasantries”. Just as you are holding your spirit still to try to catch what is being sung, the tension and tightly-wound anxiety gives out to sprightly and fleet-footed musical chorusing. Again the guitar work is superb, changing moods and speeds seamlessly, and infusing the track with a tangible torrent of angst and solicitude. The entire band are tight and studied throughout, but allow a looseness to the composition, and infuse it with sparks and spots of sweat and blood, revealing subtle nuances with each ensuing listen. The vocal is forceful and full-bodied, and in spite of the breathless and machine gun delivery, it never loses its rigidity and composure, marking it out as one of the picks of the E.P. It is an impressive opening brace, and lays out the band’s sound and intentions effectively and spirit-raising efficacy. Importantly the momentum never loses a step, and by track 3, you are begging for a few minutes of acoustic calm, to collect your thoughts and compose your senses. 9.2
If the opening bars of ‘This Town’ are anything to go by, it seems that there is no remission or time to stand still. The band mean business, and are not willing to drop pace. With might and main, the intro is snarling and equipped with gravel-fisted arpeggio and carnivorous desire. After about 15 seconds or so, there is a vague submission of rage, and the riff transmogrifies into another trademark electronic parable; complete with the same sort of inventiveness and authority of Johnny Marr. The angular fret work creates its own osmosis, and there is a power and catchiness to it, that puts a smile on your face. The tale, explains how “the kid who runs this town”, will succumb to the real world, which has intentions to “spit him out”. It is a foreboding and cautionary tale, and complete with oblique and daring musical backing, and stark lyrical snatches, it is another impressive track, and keeps the pace on an energetic high. 9.0
There are far-off sounding guitar echos, interplay. It begins with a brief death metal rumble, and somewhere around the 1o second mark, it transforms into a rebel-rousing, energy-infused number. The guitar sounds range from echoed struts to guttural rumblings fresh from the jaws of the Devil. By co-mingling these diverse flavours, it gives the track a unique and fresh sound, and sounds like a traditional Dead Cassette number. The vocal once more is infused with bluster and command, and has smatters of Robert Smith again. Its heart and soul seems to have a little of Libs’ ‘Up The Bracket’, and has a similar tenement squalor to the fighting musicality and raw and uplifted vocals. It may not be as strong as ‘El Genius’, but will leave quite an impression in your mind. 9.1
The title-track completes the E.P.s progression. There is a rising intrigue and potency to the guitar-driven intro. It builds and kicks and dances itself silly, imploring you to get on board. The music dominates for the most part, creating its own scenes and little pockets of influence. The vocal power is present again and the messages are strong-willed, vivid and inspiring in equal measures. Samples include: “When everything comes crashing down” and “stand up if you still believe”. It is an epic and fitting way to end an adventurous E.P., and leaves you wanting to hear more from these boys! 9.2
I was impressed by the band over the course of the E.P. They have a brilliant professionalism to their sound, and portray the confidence of a band 3 or 4 albums in, rather than one so young. The lyrics have an effective simplicity to them, but are mature and focused. The words do not trip over one another and there are no wasted syllables. They can get their message said quickly and workmanlike, and show a cavalier and daring spirit throughout all five tracks. The vocals have little shades of artists past, but retain a singular individuality to them, and are strong and impassioned from start to finish, never wavering or losing conviction. The band provide spectacular backing and the range of guitar and drum sounds and patterns is to be commended. The band manage to change course and projection over the course of a song, and do so with ease, in no small part because of the players. The songs were memorable and strong, and the quality rarely dipped at all. If you have not heard of Dead Cassette, and are in need of a new sound to inflame and enliven…
… then look no further than ‘Sandcastles’.
Key Track: ‘El Genius’.