Dead Guys – Duties (self released, 02 June 2012)
Hey there, folks. How’s it going? (For the record, that question isn’t always rhetorical — if the mood ever strikes you, you can feel free to hit me with some feedback using the comments section at the bottom of each post!)
It’s Saturday, and I’m in sort of a mellow mood, myself. It’s been a long week, and we especially tend to get pretty busy at work as we get closer to the end of the month — hooray for accounting — with the peak usually coming about a week before month-end, so in other words, approximately yesterday. I wouldn’t say that what I do is particularly difficult or strenuous, but sometimes it can be very mentally taxing or feel overwhelming at times. So like I said, I’m basically in the mood for relaxing this weekend.
I’ve mentioned before about how sometimes I need to step outside of the “metal music” box, and treat my ears to something a little different. I’d wager that’s true about everybody: it’s hard to listen to nothing but amps turned up to eleven, pounding drums, and screaming vocals all day every day. Sometimes you need some variety in your life, and for me, today is one of those days.
So I’ve got some mellow bluesy rock to share with you today — but of course I don’t expect all of you readers to be feeling exactly the same way I am when I write these posts! That’s why there’s a whole archive of stuff out there for you to check out (about 193 articles not including this one); surely there’s something there that’ll tickle your fancy. And then the next time you’re feeling like you’re in the mood for some mellow bluesy rock, you can come back to this one. Or even better — I’ll give you the chance to download this EP for free, and then you can hang on to it to listen to anytime you choose!
Dead Guys consists of a trio of… well, dead guys, natch. Apparently while they were still alive they lived in Duluth, Minnesota; now, as the story goes, they’ve been rejected by both Heaven and Hell (except the drummer, because supposedly they all go to hell, explaining why the band performs without one), left to randomly wander the afterlife, it seems, playing their stripped-down music full of blues and bluegrass influences.
I first learned about these guys back in February of this year, thanks to the infrequently updated but nevertheless incredibly informative blog Church of the Riff (here). What they were working on at that time seemed pretty intriguing to me, so I’ve tried to keep an eye on them since then. A few weeks ago, that stalking finally paid off, because their six-song debut EP Duties was released.
There’s a pervading darkenss throughout this release — even on the more uptempo numbers like the opener “Dead Man” there’s a sense of melancholy and mellow bluesiness; this is enhanced by the light touch of reverb covering the whole recording, and especially the distant-sounding vocals.
The gruff vocal delivery (which sporadically verges into an impassioned screamy territory) and Black Keys-ian guitar riffs in “Dead Man,” as well as some of the other tracks including “Gumption,” definitely hint towards a hard-blues-rock direction, but the sparse arrangements (including the kick drum plus tambourine combination that they use to keep time, serving as a substitute for a fulltime drummer) and the frequent quieter breakdowns, definitely have more of an alternative-country-blues vibe.
This is even more prevalent on the occasions where the banjo makes an appearance: “I’m No Jesus Christ” is a slow, light shuffle that moseys its way along on the back of the rhythmic banjo plucking. Here it is generally employed as a percussion instrument more than a melodic one, and there are none of the standard flourishes or fancy picking techniques often associated with bluegrass-style banjo playing. On the other hand, interestingly enough, the slow electric-distorted-blues of “Never Be Saved” uses a banjo-roll picking technique in the second guitar part that occasionally serves as a counter-melody to the main guitar and vocal parts.
“Damn and Blast” follows in the footsteps of “Dead Man” by putting an emphasis on the driving beat of the kick drum; the simplicity of the small amount of percussion used here complements the songs perfectly, seeming to work better in this context than the full drum kit parts (which were, nevertheless, equally uncomplex) so often incorporated by the White Stripes.
Closing out the EP is a song called “Raymond S. Johnson” which puts a twist on the band’s formula that has become familiar by now: the guitar is relegated to the far background, playing second-fiddle (as it were) to a leading electric bass riff. On top of that, additional colors and flavors are provided by an accordion that surprisingly sounds just as natural here as it would have outside a Parisian café. The mental images conjured by that comparison — relaxing, mellow, bluesy… everything we were looking for can be found right here.
Go ahead and listen to Duties, or feel free to grab yourself a free copy, here: