Dead Confederate is a band from Georgia that sounds like a band from Seattle. Specifically, they kinda sound like Nirvana. Where that’s an affectation for a lot of really shitty bands, in Dead Confederate’s case, it’s a coincidence for a pretty good band. Hardy Morris just sounds (sometimes) like Kurt Cobain, especially on “Heavy Petting,” which is the first noise you hear on Dead Confederate’s plenty noisy debut, Wrecking Ball.
Wrecking Ball is a broody fucker of an album, taking its sweet time to stagger between maudlin and morose and burying its melodies deep under crunchy guitars, heavy bass, and Morris’s Cobainesque growl. I’ve waded into the murky depths of Wrecking Ball many a time now and it gets better on each trip, but stand warned – you may not want to work this hard to like a rock album.
The problem is, nowadays, most people who traffic in broody rock stumble easily into emo-territory. Dead Confederate manages to keep the tension going without ever straying into My Chemcial Romance-style faux-anthems or the “getting dumped is just the worst thing ever”-isms of, say, Fall Out Boy. Of course, I can only make out about half the words on Wrecking Ball, but I don’t detect the tell-tale stink of radio-friendly emo crap. To get back to the album opener, “Heavy Petting,” seems to be about lying awake at night obsessing over getting that special someone to round third base and head for home, so to speak.
Wrecking Ball is but ten tracks long but clocks in close to an hour, meaning a lot of these songs build up for a long-ass time and then wander around a bit before finding the door. It’s the impenetrable shit that Hum used to do, which may sound like damning with faint praise, but it really means that I have hopes that Dead Confederate will one day produce an album as awesome as You’d Prefer An Astronaut.
Morris has a great voice to lend the proceedings and, like the dearly departed Cobain, he can go from a croon to a howl in a matter of seconds without sounding like a poser. Morris’s croony moments actually recall Paul Durham from Black Lab’s early days, especially on the ballad(ish) “It Was A Rose.”
Wrecking Ball, upon repeated listens, does manage to escape its “everything you liked about 90s alternative”-ness, but the more I listen to it, the more I think it probably doesn’t need to. I mean, The Smashing Pumpkins are a shell of their former glory, Pearl Jam is basically a Led Zeppelin cover band at this point, and don’t even get me started on the Foo Fighters (if you’re confused, hurt, or angry by the Foo Fighters output in the early 21st century, I suggest you pretend they turned into The Whigs, who picked up the ball Grohl & company dropped shortly after The Colour and the Shape); so it’s not really bad that a band has sprung up that can combine all that distorted guitar nastiness with the sprawling atmospherics of good Pink Floyd (before Gilmour started singing full-time; face it, kids, A Momentary Lapse of Reason was a shitty album, except for “Sorrow.”). Dead Confederate, on their CrapSpace page, tag themselves as Rock/Psychedelic/Other and I think that’s a pretty fair assessment of their style. I realize that I’ve just made Dead Confederate sound like a New Yorker comic of a rock band, but that’s for your ears to judge (plus, as I learned this weekend, the New Yorker has run one of the funniest comics I’ve ever seen in its pages).
The songs tend to get lost in their length, but some highly melodic and suitably heavy brighht spots emerge, especially toward the beginning: “Heavy Petting,” “The Rat”, and “Goner,” start off the album pretty well. Later, “All the Angels,” and “Start Me Laughing” bring more straightforward rocking before you descend into the two longest tracks on the album, “The News Underneath” (just over seven minutes) and “Flesh Colored Canvas” (12 fucking minutes. If you’re hitting the 12-minute mark and the song is not “Desolation Row,” just stop. Please. Okay? Stop.). Both these songs have their moments, but I’m starting to think there’s little to no reason to ever eclipse the 7 minute mark in a song.
Dead Confederate is a good rock band that needs to balance their best bits (the ability to write solid melodies and deliver them in an impressively heavy manner) with their excesses (that meandering thing has got to go, or at least be reined in a bit) and Wrecking Ball is a compelling debut for people who have dreamed of trying to create mash-ups of Your Body Above Me and The Dark Side of the Moon. You know who you are.