Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MxDwn.com review of Dead Confederate's Sugar

You Sound Very Much Alive, Sir

Dead Confederate have wedged their way into a genre that doesn’t really have many followers or compatriots. Grunge country-rock could come close; maybe heavy alt-country? All kinds of bands come to mind when shooting for comparisons. We know they loved Pink Floyd and most likely Sabbath in their youth, but growing up in Georgia results in a starting point with acoustic guitars and bearded roots rock. My Morning Jacket always comes up and so does Nirvana; lead singer and guitarist Hardy Morris does seem to echo Kurt Cobain at some heavier moments. Yet Dead Confederate seem unconcerned with fitting in and with their sophomore LP, Sugar, they position themselves as pioneers of a new sound.

Their 2008 full-length debut, Wrecking Ball, had a standout single in “The Rat,” a song where Morris begs to be shot—behind a “bang bang” refrain, no less—and subsequently buried. Its hauntingly simple video shows a boy pushing a cowboy-booted foot into a trash bag and hauling it into the woods on his Radio Flyer wagon to bury it. Interspersed with shots of the band playing in a church with sparsely populated church pews and you’ve got yourself one hell of a debut single. While part of the Athens, Georgia scene they’re certainly closer to the Deerhunter and Whigs camp than to R.E.M. or The B-52’s—these guys are a little darker than most and we’re all the better for it.

For this record they chose John Agnello to produce, a man who’s worked with The Hold Steady, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. The second track on Sugar, “Run from the Gun,” is one of the slowest and softest of the batch but finds Morris’ voice front and center. Even after lumbering kick drums, keyboards, other voices and feedback, his positioning aids in understanding the complexity of their songwriting.

Another far different keeper is the two-minute “Mob Scene,” where from the get-go you get a barrage of chaotic percussion, keys, and herky-jerky guitar; it sounds like a hectic Radiohead song mixed with Queens of the Stone Age. Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis makes an appearance on the stellar “Giving It All Away,” where the band’s energy and tone suggest Band of Horses on a bender.

There’s nothing revolutionary about what Dead Confederate do. They’re a five-piece with a simple drums/two guitars/bass/keyboard equation. And with the title track to finish you off at the end of Sugar, you realize that injecting feedback, noise and charm into stoner rock is all the genre needs to offer back to them some well-deserved Southern hospitality.


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