How fitting that Dead! of all bands have chosen to call their debut The Golden Age Of Not Even Trying. For those who may be unaware – which, considering the haste with which this band have been dropped from their pedestal, is a very real possibility – pretty much the entirety of Dead!’s traction has been built through the media circus that snaffled them up when they saw the marketable product that’s inoffensive enough to fit on the radio, but with the faux edginess that’ll bring the kids flooding in. And when that failed to happen, Dead!’s star came plummeting down, to the point where the buzz around this debut album has been muted to say the least. But they’ve still got a major label behind them, and there’s clearly enough interest for this album to actually exist, and thus here’s The Golden Age Of Not Even Trying, Dead!’s attempt at making a long-lasting impression on the public.
And it’s actually quite funny, because for a title that’s presumably meant to be a jab at a music industry that favours style over substance, all it really does is write the punchlines about Dead! for everyone else to use. Even if, on the surface, this seems like a fairly decent alt-rock album, Dead! insist on co-opting flavour-of-the-month features to broaden their reach, rather than any sort of organic evolution. What’s left is an album writhing around in the dead zone between Slaves and Palaye Royale, with all the scrappy, one-note tedium of the former and the laughable artificiality and pretentiousness of the latter.
What’s worse is how obvious this is all made to seem. A track like You’re So Cheap feels like it was focus grouped into existence to sneak into the niche of gothic relationship melodrama that Creeper currently do infinitely better at, and with Alex Mountford’s glazed-over, “too cool to care” vocal style (presumably adopted to mask the fact that he really can’t sing), there’s barely a single moment on this album that’s delivered with conviction or anything less than nauseous self-importance. That’s not even encompassing the laughable moments where Dead! cast their net out wider and try some social commentary, with the title track being a snobbish dismissal of modern music from the comfort of their own high horse, and Youth Screams & Fades might have gotten some points for being a more directly populist address if it wasn’t botched up so badly in an execution that feels hideously forced.
All of this might be forgivable if the music itself was good, but it’s arguably even worse. You can give Dead! this – for a band so clearly playing the fame game, they’re at least trying to cover it up by trying to sound as rough-scrabbled and lo-fi as possible, but it’s inflated to almost comic proportions and comes off as a parody of rougher garage-rock acts. Once in a while, one of Sam Chappell’s basslines produces something of enjoyment like on Jessica or Off-White Paint, but beyond that, some of this is embarrassingly amateurish and certainly not indicative of a band with a major label budget behind them, when a track like The Boys ✞ The Boys is so loosely stitched together, or Any Port is so sloppy and slapdash in its composition. There’s nothing enjoyable or exciting here, just a band peddling their own approximation of transgressive cool that falls way off the mark.
And yet, so much of this is evident without even hearing a single note. For the mainstream press to drop Dead! on a whim like they did made it clear that a real stinker was down the pipeline, and The Golden Age Of Note Even Trying doesn’t exactly do anything to disprove that – it’s badly played, badly produced, and burdened with a jeering knowledge of how cool it thinks it is that gets insufferable remarkably quickly. There might be a kernel of quality if you really squint at it, but given how much of the complete opposite pads it, it’s not worth delving in deeper to find it.
For fans of: Palaye Royale, Fearless Vampire Killers, Fizzy Blood
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Golden Age Of Not Even Trying’ by Dead! is out now on BMG Rights Entertainment.