Focused sound, fuzzy songwriting
On their sophomore release, Athens, Ga. rockers Dead Confederate continue to
refine their brand of grungy shoegaze. They’ve enlisted the help of producer John Agnello, who reins in the meandering sludge of 2008’s debut Wrecking Ball and nips song length in the bud (the longest track on the band’s 2008 debut clocked in at over 12 minutes).
The 10 tunes on Sugar are more rock than ramshackle—still heavy on reverb and distorted, droning guitar—and they play like a who’s who of the band’s many influences. With its fuzzy guitar intro, opening track “In The Dark” nods to Sonic Youth, and “Mob Scene” (aside from frontman Hardy Morris’s Billy Corgan-esque vocals) could have been lifted from Led Zeppelin’s songbook, with Walker Howle’s proggy, wailing guitar and drummer Jason Scarboro’s thrashing beat.
Despite this sonic fury, the album’s songwriting is weak. On “Quiet Kid,” Morris belts, “Nothing’s wrong and nothing’s right / Do it today, I think I might / A gun is an easy way to fight… / Fuck it, kill everyone in sight” and it comes off like a dated, uninpsired swipe at the disturbed-teen anthem Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” perfected two decades ago. On “Shocked to Realize,” he pleads, “Pretty pretty please / Don’t you let the shadows win.” And amidst the hazy reverb of “Run From the Gun,” yet another drab nugget: “You were sweet as poison.”
Lame lyrics aside, Sugar demonstrates Dead Confederate’s natural talent for grunge atmospherics, but they could use some songwriting workshops before tackling their third effort.