‘Sugar,’ the title of the second album from Georgia five-piece, DEAD CONFEDERATE, refers to the record snowfall that affected New Jersey during the recording of the follow-up to the critically acclaimed ‘Wrecking Ball.’ And just like the snow melt provides much needed water to continue the circle of life, so ‘Sugar’ heralds the advent of a new, fresh- sounding and brighter approach to the band’s music.
Gone are the seven and twelve minute, lengthy ‘stoner’ epics of the debut album. Missing indeed are twenty-one minutes from the total playing time of the earlier long-player, but ‘never mind the width, feel the quality’ is what I say.
And there’s plenty of quality in the thirty-six minutes of ‘Sugar.’ Take the current single (August 2010) ‘Giving It All Away’ – this is positively upbeat in comparison to most of the band’s earlier works. Like all their songs however, there is a magical atmosphere about the song, and the prominence given to the organ, combined with the vocal delivery remind me of early Charlatans.
Of course, what DEAD CONFEDERATE do so well, is create a haunting mood that spreads across the whole album. Opening track ‘In The Dark’ opens in such manner – kind of like Australian band Howling Bells. The guitars are fuzzed up and the vocals slightly ‘distanced’ while the clear, uncomplicated drumming knits the whole together.
‘Run From The Gun’ is a completely different animal, though. More acoustic in nature, and with the vocals again given that slight distortion effect, it is an early surprise package within the album. ‘Father Figure’ starts out quietly, but it’s not long before a grungy rumble takes hold. The vocals are softly delivered as the song gently rises and falls in intensity, ably assisted by some nice rolling drum work from Jason. (I hear distinct resemblances to Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ within the latter stages of this one.)
‘Quiet Kid,’ crashes in quite unceremoniously, and I can appreciate where other commentators are coming from when they talk about the band’s ‘grunge’ influences. But I would personally not flaunt that particular ‘accusation’ too much as I think the simplicity of the statement severely understates the potential and originality of DEAD CONFEDERATE.
‘By Design’ is more of a nod to the previous album with vocals more pained and the tempo more downbeat – but just as moody and atmospheric, especially as the track closes with the deep sound of a cello. By direct contrast though, ‘Mob Scene’ kicks in as you might expect from the title, in quite aggressive manner. This is probably as close as the band get to a ‘conventional’ rock song, and an excellent effort it is too – all crashing drums and schizoid guitar work cramming into its all too brief two minute duration.
‘Semi-Thought’ adopts amore staccato, machine-gun style of drumming, interspersing some beautiful, whining organ and moody vocals. It’s all quite anthemic! Title track and the penultimate song, ‘Sugar’ is kind of bluesy, with almost croaky vocals for the first half before the song erupts into its full-blown magnificence.
Interestingly, the final two tracks on the album are the most similar in style to those on ‘Wrecking Ball’ – especially so the closer ‘Shocked To Realize’ which starts out slowly and builds almost imperceptibly into huge wall of noise for the last minute or two, before dropping down to close by replicating the song’s opening haunting, desolate sounding guitar.
The band themselves have been quoted as stating they feel as though ‘Sugar’ is their first true album, with ‘Wrecking Ball,’ seeming more like a collection of their early songs. Well – I certainly wouldn’t dismiss their debut album quite so lightly, but with this album, it certainly does seem like Spring has sprung for DEAD CONFEDERATE.
I for one, can’t wait for the arrival of ‘summer!’
(Released through Kartel Records on 30th August 2010)