Review Summary: San Francisco punk album caps off a nice year for Fat Wreck's rough and tumble bands.
Dead to Me - Little Brother
Fat Wreck has recently been on fire with their more rough-around-the-edges rock-leaning punk groups. American Steel released their first album in 5 years, Destroy Their Future
, last October and The Loved Ones combined punk, rock, folk, and blues on the early year front runner, Build & Burn
. If only The Gaslight Anthem weren't signed to SideOneDummy, or Dead to Me's new album had been a full length instead of an EP, they'd be batting three for three for the past year's output. Dead to Me, another great San Francisco punk band featuring members of One Many Army (they had 15 minutes of 15-year old girls listening to their music because of a split with Alkaline Trio), are now following up their debut LP, Cuban Ballerina
, with a catchy and melodic EP, Little Brother
, that ends too soon but is great while it lasts.
Dead to Me's sound on this EP is all over the map within the niche subgenre of the aforementioned rock-inspired punk bands. There's a bit of Against Me! and American Steel in the reggae-inspired "Little Brother," which feels like the best track Against Me! never wrote for Searching for a Former Clarity
. Then there's "Ran That Scam," a track that alternates upbeat hi-hat patterns with classic punk chord progressions. The bass work and vocals at the end of the song feel downwind enough of Hot Water Music to catch a whiff of the influence but not an overwhelming one. The opener, "Don't Wanna," tempers a slightly bratty pop punk chorus with sandpaper vocals and bitter production, making the overt catchiness exhilarating instead of cloying. "Arrythmic Palpitations," the softest song on the album, is anything but fluffy, as the track ends on an uplifting final chorus. Dead to Me has a nice range of influences, none of which are too obvious, and their style, though an amalgam, feels like its own singular creation. They're the product of learned punk roots but have their own characteristic sound.
Other than the fact that it ends after only 13 minutes, Dead to Me can be faulted for the disparity between the obvious centerpiece of the album, "Little Brother" and the other tracks. "Little Brother" is by far the most accomplished song they've written to date. Its use of reggae and ska is inspired, all of the melodies are memorable and catchy, the instrumental work is tight but fun, the chord progressions are delightfully unexpected, and each part of the song is slightly different and pushes and pulls the punk energy immaculately throughout the large scale structure of the song. With "Little Brother," Dead to Me have achieved a track that transcends the typical glue-sniffing of other rough-around-the-edges punk without losing the x-factor that makes punk so fun (huffing paint maybe?). As a result all of the other tracks on the album feel like filler. I'd be curious to see what Dead to Me do in the future with a truly mature song in their arsenal. Will they put out another fun and brash punk album, or will they step up to the plate and produce a truly classic album? For now all we have is Little Brother
, an awesome but in some superficial ways, an unfulfilling 13-minutes.