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Dead Man - Dead Man

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Artist: Dead Man

Album: Dead Man

Label: Crusher

Review date: Apr. 24, 2006

If Euro-retro rock acts like Dungen, the Works, and Witchcraft capitalize on writing ’60s- and early ’70s-rock with a modern drive, if not the touch, then Sweden’s Dead Man throw out the modern imperative completely and roll back to the era without a trace of irony, one that by its nature is entirely historical. There was a time in popular music when making the sort of music Dead Man creates on their self-titled debut was just something that happened, a collection of sounds and influences that solidified into an era’s music. For the ’60s, some mixed folk, velocity, blues chemicals, the rootsier side of rock, and a very specific set of cultural mores and taboos, and out came the Grateful Dead. That sort of search for a greater musical truth spawned a number of lesser-known bands, and from the sounds of it, Dead Man has heard them all. This album qualifies as a patchwork rearrangement of wholly existing sounds; nothing more, nothing less. The group is nothing if not revivalist.

That being said, Dead Man kicks up a Pigpen-sized dirt cloud on this seven-song album, and sound like they’re having a great time at it. Unlike the doomy bands they’ll be lumped in with, there’s not much mope to be found on this record – merely accomplished and speedy musicianship, tight interplay, and adventurous songwriting. More than anything, their steady trudge evokes, in deed and title, the Groundhogs circa 1970’s Thank Christ for the Bomb, where British blues revivalism started falling out of favor, becoming more of a general despondency that colored the subsequent works of those who got through that scene in one piece (see also Then Play On-era Fleetwood Mac for a less-than-seamless example of said sound). Fittingly, lead vocalist Kristoffer Sjödahl has this warbling trill that he attaches to the long vowel sounds at the end of a phrase, much like lead Groundhog Tony McPhee, or Roger Chapman of the likeminded British group Family. The second and third records by that group (1969’s Family Entertainment and 1970’s A Song For Me) are also fairly significant blueprints to Dead Man’s architecture. So are the work of seldom-heard outfit late-’60s Mighty Baby, and the Dead circa Aoxomoxoa, all born out of the same curious musical seed, out of a time of social and cultural unrest and a sort of browning, bruised decay that symbolizes all the work that the hippie movement accomplished taking a nosedive in the new decade. Unsurprisingly, this is the period of time when metal came into play; while Dead Man never reaches those extremes, you can sense their urgency is rooted in more than a little Purple or Heep worship.

Does it work? Sure! “Haunted Man” bustles with unchecked Equatorial energy before tapdancing into jazzy triplets. “Further” choogles along Tobacco Road with some surprising guitar histrionics that lend themselves more to punk than accomplished playing, but in this case it works. The 14-minute closer “Deep Forest Green” rises and falls in the same microbial sump of synthesizer squiggle, transmuting from hard boogie into the blues proper. And “Season of the Dead” settles in like cold in a valley right in the middle of the album, the only point in the record where anything remotely doom-oriented is called upon.

Will you remember it? I guess. If anything, a band like Dead Man should be your round-trip ticket back into the annals of rock history, but those aren’t depths you can really plunder without a guide – you will inevitably stumble into some dank, musty corner of music never meant to be remembered, and could be put off forever by it. And if all that really came out of one listener’s enjoyment of such an album are comparisons to their musical precedents, then the shelf life and exposure these guys achieve may not amount to much. All the same, Dead Man are doing a public service in breathing a little life back into dead texts, and reciting them whole instead of changing what’s there for the sake of their own ego, or for any commercial reasons. At the rung these guys currently inhabit on the ladder of the music world, it’s a call for advancement.

By Doug Mosurock

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