Rockin' Our Turntable: The Dead On

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 14, 2013 4:20PM

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Photo by Russell Lord

The Dead On is a Chicago quartet pulling its members from several semi-legendary groups—Woolworthy, The Reputation, Penthouse Sweets, Empty Spaces—to create a rock and roll beast that wraps all those groups into a single ball of slash and burn fury. They just released their self-titled debut it's filled with music that grabs its enthusiasm from adolescent abandonment and tempers it with grit and hooks that only years of grizzled experience and a refusal to completely grow up can deliver. The end result is an album that stands outside of any particular moment to occupy a pure space of rock and/or roll.

2013_11__the_dead_on_LP.jpg The songs are just a shade too raw to qualify as power-pop, occupying the territory that stands somewhere between The Replacements' abandon and Cheap Trick's precision. From the opening strums of "We Are All Alive" the music grabs you and barely slows the pace as each song charges into the next. The central themes, lyrically, stick with the tried and true subject matter of boys chasing girls. Here's where the neat trick lies. While most love songs—especially when sung by skinny boys in tight pants and leather jackets—center on the acquisition of their affection, singer Rudy Gonzalez turns the expected on its head. A song like "I'm Going To Destroy You" with the chorus, "every time I'm going to make you come" would be typical bluster but Gonzalez tags on "a little closer to me." This changes the whole tenor of the tune, and this approach runs through most of the album. These are songs of a guy already in love.

There are two notable exceptions. The first is the rager "Little Things," whose narrator has had a less than satisfactory experience with a relationship and it pours through screamed vocals and vicious riffs. It comes halfway through the album and is a bracing blast of negative energy that makes you wanna rip shit up and bounce around the room. It's great. Later on, in an album ruled by tenderhearted lyricism that largely subverts sophomoric double entendres, a song like "You Make My Love Grow" is an incongruous fit. For one the title actually does deliver the content in a pretty straightforward manner. Perhaps it's a moment where our central protagonist stumblers in his resolve to be a better man? Based on the sentiments running through the rest of the album we're going to take that interpretation.

As a whole, though, The Dead On is a impressive debut. This shouldn't be so surprising given the band's pedigree but what is surprising is the fact that their debut is such a vibrant piece of work. Most bands at this point in their career have put on the brakes and have settled into self-rumination and music that grinds with the dust of the accumulated years clogging the gears. But The Dead On is charging full speed ahead into that timeless zone where all great rock and/or roll lives on.

The Dead On play an album release show on Friday, Nov. 15, at Ultra Lounge, 2169 N. Milwaukee Ave., 9 p.m., $5, 21+