Review of Dead Confederate’s album ‘Wrecking Ball’ released through Razor & Tie.
Mention the Athens region of Georgia in a musical context and people immediately jump to the conclusion you’re discussing the merits of a certain Michael Stipe and REM. Whilst it cannot be argued that Stipe and co. most certainly put their hometown on the map nearly three whole decades ago, there’s a whole new wave of groundbreaking artists who’ve emerged to varying degrees of success in their own right since. Bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Drive-By Truckers have carved out their own niches succinctly, the former cited as being partially responsible for the whole slowcore movement while the latter’s incendiary mix of old school country and blues with heavier rock dynamics has moved each genre’s credibility that one step forward, not to mention force themselves into the musical dictionary under the word “influential” with great aplomb. Throw ambient shoegaze combo Japancakes into the mix and the vast trajectory of Athens’ complex music scene is there for all to see. Combine those last three with a visceral intensity and acerbic vocals that scream from the heart and you have something special on your hands indeed, which is where Dead Confederate come in.
Not to be confused with the London outfit formerly known as Holy Roller and now of a similar name, Dead Confederate may fuse together similar influences from an array of styles spanning the past forty years or so but there’s little doubt they have one eye set on the future in a similar way My Morning Jacket or the inimitable Lift To Experience so elegantly displayed on each of their breakthrough records several years ago. There’s certainly a haunting familiarity in Hardy Morris’ raw vocal deliveries with the haughty way Jim James stamps his identity across everything his own outfit thrusts in his direction.
Take the opening gambit that is ‘Heavy Petting’ for example. What initially starts out as a random psychedelic blues workout immediately explodes into something quite extraordinary thanks in no small part to Morris, who doesn’t so much take the bull by the horns as proceed to tear it limb from limb incessantly. ‘All The Angels’ meanwhile takes its blueprint from Anton Newcombe’s library of art-assisted noise only to throw in its own stoner rock element when least expected. Elsewhere, ‘The News Underneath’ and ‘Flesh Colored Canvas’ both take the words “drawn out epics” to excess, clocking in at over twenty minutes in total, yet neither showing any sign of relenting in intensity or bite, even after the initial rush of both has subsided.
Of course there will be those who may argue that occasionally Dead Confederate veer too close to their influences at times, and while there are obvious moments that suggest their teenage years may have been spent listening to the entire Sub Pop roster as well as their more subversive elders back catalogues, it’s the way they manage to fuse this wide spectrum of inspirations into something so original and diverse that makes ‘Wrecking Ball’ a joy to experience, and more importantly, one that leads itself along more exciting pathways with every subsequent listen.
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