Review Summary: No longer dead to us
There comes a time in a band’s career when the group must stray into uncharted territory in order to avoid the pitfalls of repetition, even if in doing so the hypothetical band sacrifices fans in the process. For one reason or another, that time came after Dead to Me's hard-hitting debut Cuban Ballerina
. While this may have largely been due to the departure of vocalist Jack Dalrymple, Dead to Me’s sophomore release African Elephants
saw the band experiencing in ways that were not evident on the debut, ultimately crafting an inconsistent record that was devoid of the playful energy that so eloquently defined Dead to Me. This came to a surprise for many, considering how proficient the band was at crafting gritty, and simplistic punk tunes. African Elephants
was frustrating because it wasn’t necessary at that point in Dead to Me’s career, and it would take a more traditional approach to bring the band back down to earth. And that, is essentially what Moscow Penny Ante
As cliché as it may sound, Dead to Me’s third release, Moscow Penny Ante
is the return to form record that the band required. Short, sincere, and to-the-point, the album resurrects the exuberance that the debut was commended for, re-establishing terrific melodies and tight instrumentation. Kicking off with the thunderous opener “Undertow,” blistering leads and an infectious atmosphere set the stage for Moscow Penny Ante
. Nearly every track seems to follow suit, as the momentum only stalls momentarily on tracks such as “I Love My Problems” and “The Evolution Will Be Tele-Visualized.” With this demeanor in place, it is easy to view the record as one-dimensional, but it is the pop-appeal that keeps the release intriguing, especially on the penultimate track “Victims of No Ambition.” Riding a palm-muted verse, and a captivating rhythm section, “Victims of No Ambition” provides the distinction necessary to draw allusions to Cuban Ballerina
, even with Tyson “Chicken” Annichario at the helm this time. Yet as affecting as the record may be in terms of tight instrumentation and enthralling hooks, Moscow Penny Ante
is as inspired as ever. Never a stranger to political charged lyrics, Dead To Me comes out in full-force, honing in on topics ranging from drug addictions and influential figure Malcolm X. The band’s assault on current events is accentuated through the record’s anthemic closer, which is elevated by gang vocals and its bawling chorus: “The whole world, the whole world’s gone mad!” That it has, Dead to Me.
It may very well have taken “Chicken” some time to get acclimated with Dead to Me on African Elephants
, but his contributions on Moscow Penny Ante
reveal that the band is very much back on track. Falling back on what made them so adept in the first place, Moscow Penny Ante
is the infectious and vigorous release that its predecessor should have been. Now a veteran punk rock group, Dead to Me has made a bold statement with their third-full length record, not far from launching its magnum-opus.