Recorded by Nick Skrobisz in Baltimore, MD from 16 to 17 December 2017. Mastered by Joe Plourde. Music by Dead Tenants. Lyrics by Doug Tenant. Album art by Nikhil Misra. Cover inspired by Yayoi Kasuma.
Many great bands have numbered their albums sequentially: Led Zeppelin, Queen, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones… could the Dead Tenants forthcoming release (LP II), fresh from New York on the new Buzzhowl Records label, join that list?
“Outrun” (track 1) boots the album straight into your face with thrashing, bouncing and awkward sounding riff and guitar lick that sonically scribbles over the vocal line which are semi-spoken and free of emotion.
“Rubbed out” (track 2) keeps up the feeling of dissonance with a bobbing beat and a walking bass line that is soon joined by a whining, descending guitar line. The effect is uncomfortable and jangles on your ears. (But it’s great!)
“Not walking” (track 3) kicks off straight away with a riff that always somehow feels like it’s trying to keep up with itself. At times it settles down to a steady, throbbing beat before skipping a step and tripping up on itself. Remarkably, this is the longest track on the album clocking in at a not too lengthy 4′ 25″.
“DTCD I” (track 4) is a short, instrumental track that plays around a simple descending riff.
“Reset” (track 5) is the point in the album that I always begin to muse that Dead Tenants sound a bit like a post-punk Voïvod. I love the riff—it almost sounds like a dot matrix printer that buzzes across the page before resetting to the start of the next line and printing the same thing again and again and again.
“Marginalia” (track 6) initially feels like a straight-forward rock/metal-like track on the album. At least for the first 30 seconds before it takes a sharp left into the same discordant territory as the previous tracks, with its driving bass and wandering and whining guitars. There are echoes here of early Nirvana, Throbbing Gristle and even early Prong.
“Cornered” (track 7) certainly ups the weirdness factor a couple of notches with a call and response between bass and guitar. If ever there was a music review that called for the phrase “syncopated back-beat” it’s definitely this track. You might like to file this under ‘easy listening’ for a laugh.
“Cheapskate” (track 8) is maybe the most traditionally punk track on the release. Recycled punk riffs overdubbed with Dead Tenants’ now-signature musical distortions. Cheapskates! (See what I did there?)
“Asterisk” (track 9) sounds like how I imagine a punk band Morse code convention might open—guitars with dash-dash dash-dash, and basses with dash dot-dot—before transitioning into a semi-deconstructed punk track played on an endless railway line and discoloured by acidic guitar tones.
“DTCD II” (track 10) closes the album with a second chaotic instrumental where it feels like the band gave themselves permission to play whatever they liked, at the same time. It’s a fitting end to the album.
But what does ‘DTCD’ stand for? I’m going to go with Diploma in Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases.
So, what can be said about LP II? The melodies are jarring, the harmonies discordant, the drums change direction on a whim.
Each time I’ve sat down to listen to this album, afterwards it has left me feeling quite uneasy for quite a while afterwards. This is definitely a work of art that leaves an impression on the listener.
And for that, I really like it. As long-term readers of this blog will know, I appreciate an album that challenges me, that makes me sit forward and pay attention. This isn’t background music that can be ignored—just as punk intended in the mid-1970s, it grabs you by the collars and demands attention. Well it has mine.
Review score: 85%