Music

The Dead 60s: The Dead 60s

Raphaël Costambeys-Kempczynski

Playing the degeneration game. The Dead 60s take us back to the days of a leaden age.


The Dead 60s

The Dead 60s

Label: Epic
US Release Date: 2005-05-31
UK Release Date: 2005-09-12
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Call it what you will, the fin-de-siècle hangover or the nostalgic naughties, but popular music is slowly working its way backwards through time. After the camp-rock revival, we now have a flurry of punkists. Amongst others Kaiser Chiefs and The Dead 60s are slowly dragging us back to the feel of the late '70s and early '80s. But whereas the Chiefs have so far given us their goofy take on the big con, The D60s' first album offers us some full on two-tone.

Though neither band actually offers something new, for me they are a breath of fresh air because they offer a break from the likes of Coldplay's latest release. But whether or not The Dead 60s have the Chiefs' commercial flair remains to be seen. But then this is punk, so who gives a damn! Probably lots of people. But this is all about nodding your head with aggression and purpose. And don't forget to frown.

The Dead 60s are four 21st century skaster-mods from Liverpool and their self-titled debut album clocks in at 35 minutes and 56 seconds of urban hostility. The longest track on this 13-song set-list is an inciting 3'40; the shortest a breathless 1'30. Put it like this: not enough time for me to get bored but just long enough for me to do in my neck.

"Riot Radio", the first track on the album and the first single release, sets the scene. The title (how many variations can you think of, excluding Kaiser Chief's "I Predict a Riot"), the themes (conservatism broadcast over the airwaves), the values (direct action) and the sound (reverb-laden vocals) offer nothing new per se (cf. The Clash, The Pistols and The Specials). Some may even argue that the guitar riff is a little too close to Franz Ferdinand's "This Fire". But The Dead 60s are being too obvious to be dishonest. This opener works precisely because of its musical recycling driven with delinquent energy: "Airwaves beam from the light on the tower / Get my kicks from your 11th hour / Won't you give me some more / Riot on my radio." Marvellous. If I was looking for poetry I'd sit down with a Heaney collection.

As is the want of any post-Clash punk band, there are a number of tracks constructed around simple reggae guitar chords. These include "Control This" and "Nowhere". The former requires us to be patient and forgiving. The reggae intro breaks down giving way to the sound of a lighter followed by a deep breath. Yes, the singer Matt McManamon is pretending to smoke a spliff. Or maybe he really is. And yes, I do get the irony, but who gives a flying weed. However, when the boys forget the arsing about and get on with the music the results can be excellent.

As "Nowhere" fades into the sound of rain, so the cool and effective f/punk bass-line of "Red Light" kicks in. Again, there's no lyrical revolution here, but then revolution isn't the only way to make a point: "staring in silence, making no conversation / leaving the office, they love their temptation / out of the shadows and into the night, out of the blue they will swamp to the red light." This is one of the best songs on the album with a wonderful metropolitan soundtrack feel. Even the use of sirens -- come on! this is an emergency -- and drum machine effects don't put us off.

The next track also uses a siren, but this time to not so good effect (if, indeed, a siren can be used to good effect in this day and age). The intro to "Just Another Love Song" is extremely promising but for me the song loses its way. It sounds familiar, as many of the songs here do, but that's not its problem. The song suffers melodically because beyond the simple recurring mod guitar riff it is trying to be structurally too complicated (relatively speaking, of course). On such a short album it's a shame that there has to be just another filler song.

One might think the use of sirens on a Dead 60s' tune is the sign of a lack of inspiration. "Just Another Love Song", "Horizontal" and "The Last Resort" are definitely the weakest tracks on the album and they both contain the electronic wailing of police cars and ambulances attending yet another ASBO reunion. "The Last Resort" is either trying too hard or it's not quite doing enough. And the boys have to cut back on the echo effect. But they'll soon learn that less is more once they've lost the novelty of playing with all the toys in the recording studio.

"You're Not the Law", which will feature on The OC this month (is that a claim to fame these days?!?), is also guilty of sounding alarm bells (perhaps the Dead 60s themselves should sit up and take note). And we have to add to this the fact that it is a total Madness rip off. Before the opening bars have had time to find their tempo we find ourselves singing: "It's just gone noon / Half past monsoon / On the banks of the river Nile." One redeeming factor is that it sounds like "Night Boat to Cairo" revisited by The Specials. Make of that what you will.

But there are enough highlights on this record for us to rapidly forget about the follies of youthful non-inventiveness (and as I've already stated, in certain circumstances even that can be forgiven). "Loaded Gun", the follow up single to "Riot Radio", would be a good place to kick off the flip side of a vinyl copy of the album appearing as it does halfway through. "Nationwide" is characterised by an atmospheric ska start and with what sounds like a plastic toy version of a melodica wind piano. Class.

The rabble-rousing slow pounding beat of "We Get Low" is once again extremely effective, and this brings us to what really is the underlying quality of The Dead 60s: Charlie Turner's stripped down bouncing bass lines. Time and again, through the immaturity, the messiness, the unmastered energy, it's Turner's bass that comes through the strongest trying its damndest to hold everything together.

And then there are moments when everything clicks in around the bass and you get a glimpse of quality. This is the case with "New Town Disaster", probably the best song on the record with its brisk bass-line, cyclical riff and post-ironic vocals (can I get away with that?): "New Town, no future, no now" -- are they talking about Milton Keynes?

As the message is the image, the artwork is itself a two-tone affair that wavers between iconic ska imagery (council estate tower blocks) and slight immaturity (a mix of what appear to be real and fake small ads). The CD contains a handy little file that opens up a player on your PC enabling you to rip the tracks. This will allow you to reproduce a limited number of CDs or convert the tracks into Windows Media files or something that a Sony portable device can recognise (Sony owns Deltasonic). Whether or not you see this as control freakery, one thing's for sure: there's nothing very anarchic about that lads.

The album doesn't contain the Dead 60s "Ghost Town". But it is a blast and well worth half an hour of your time. It's just a shame that it is being released so late in the UK as the record has the summer feel of a Psychedelic Furs album. Perhaps that's just me. Perhaps I've damaged more than just my neck listening to this album.

Of course, you know what this means. If my original premise is true, in a couple of years' time, maybe even sooner, the progrockers will be stealing all the headlines. You mark my words.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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