11

Album Review

The Dead 60s. Questionable name, isn't it? Perhaps you're thinking (as I did) that it's an ostentatious proclamation of a revolutionary, glorious and as yet unheard of species of music that consigns the decade of The Beatles to hell once and for all? Well...it ain't. The Dead 60s are a four-piece hailing from Liverpool and are apparently so named because of the locally ubiquitous "you sound dead 60s" decree of endorsement - well, that's what their bio says anyway.

Fusing ska (Specials, Madness), new wave (The Cure), punk (The Clash), pop (Franz Ferdinand) and dub/reggae (King Tubby, Lee "Scratch" Perry) sounds a ludicrously bad idea on paper a bit like making a vindaloo with wood-chips, rusty nails and a mangled pigeon but this album manages it with considerable aplomb and the generic assimilation makes digesting the thirteen tracks contained therein an uninhibited joy.

The Dead 60s Top Twenty hit "Riot Radio" opens proceedings with a great guitar strum and rolling bass-line. Although it immediately brings to mind the art-school pop of Franz Ferdinand, The Killers and Bloc Party (perhaps the reason it was a hit), the track also incorporates the more rhythmic elements of classic Specials-type ska and a fantastically distressed guitar solo. Matt McManamon's voice is strong and unfettered with a palpable bite, which is complimented by the anaemic yet strangely meticulous production.

"A Different Age" is a speedy minimalist blast, drawing influence from Boys Don't Cry-era The Cure and The Libertines, and leads nicely into "Train To Nowhere", which for some reason again brought to my mind The Specials - specifically "Ghost Town", even though they sound only superficially similar. Maybe it was the lyric: "It takes one, to make one/It takes time, to kill time/Bought this train, bought this train to nowhere" and the echo added to the vocal track. "Train To Nowhere" is also the first song that signifies that The Dead 60s are a disparate bunch and are about a lot more than just aping the current crop of art-school pop bands and trying to look pretty on MTV.

"Red Light" continues the ska and dub themes with a disconsolate lyric, amplified by a melancholic air-raid siren guitar and a hi-hat heavy drum beat, while "Ghostfaced Killer" is imbued with the ebullience and witticism of Madness and remains impossible to stop smiling at throughout. "We Get Low" draws more potently on traditional Jamaican dub and reggae than any other track on the album. The lyrics are about nothing in particular "we get high/before we get low" but meld with the music impeccably.

"Loaded Gun" again draws on the pop musings of Franz but as with "Riot Radio", the song's real strength (and indeed that of The Dead 60s as a band) is to bolt similarly short, sharp and shocking guitars to a ska bass hook and to foreground the undulating pulse in the mix (courtesy of Central Nervous System it says here). As a result the music is considerably more dance floor friendly than Franz or The Killers there's no need to pose, to give a damn how stupid you look when you're shuffling your feet and trying not to spill a lukewarm can of Red Stripe over the gorilla dancing next to you in a Fred Perry polo shirt and Aviator shades you're just caught up in the groove.

With "Control This", it's back to political issues namely the bill of rights, governmental control and drugs. Musically it's another dub reggae track and the band have also been kind enough to include some spliff smoking effects, presumably to show that they just don't care.

"Soul Survivor" is a great funky inspiration, a track that wouldn't sound out of place on the sixth side of Sandinista! but it's blown apart by "Nationwide", at first a chilling dystopian view of Merseyside's back streets "There's something shaking from my head to my feet/I watch the house lights going off in my street" and broadcast via the ever present CCTV cameras and which have the perverse affect of making the guys stay in "cause the weekend is calling me in/but I'm trying to follow the tick, tick, tick at the heart of the nation".

"Horizontal" is a fast-paced rocker with great who-gives-a-shit angst-ridden lyrics and sets-up "The Last Resort", perhaps the most overtly political or perhaps observational track on the album (though it's a shame that it's also the name of the terrible Jonathan Woss TV show). It's no surprise that The Dead 60s cite The Clash as an influence, as the song tackles separated families, big town desolation, drunken gangs and the loss of industry. As with The Clash, The Dead 60s make this all the more pertinent and affecting by juxtaposing these provoking and accusatory lyrics with great groove-laden tunes, a trick easily imitated but difficult to master. And this track works.

Although it's a dramatic thirty-five minutes long (or should that be short), the album feels beefier a sense wrought from the record's vivid eclecticism and above all the band's professionalism you'd never guess it was recorded in a shed-sized room with no windows. By the end you're left wanting more, it's impossible to stop your feet tapping and you just gotta play the damn thing over. But you also realise that you've been listening to something important. It's not just an album highlighting the social issues that affect Liverpool and the north of England, The Dead 60s provoke investigation into the problems of the UK as a whole, perhaps even of the world. You never feel as small as when living in a burnt-out decrepit metropolis, though with this album, you can kick back, grab your stash and enjoy thirteen great tunes and forget about it. It's a fantastic debut and The Dead 60s are one of the new bands to keep your beady eyes on.