Dead Gaze – Dead Gaze (album) (Palmist / FatCat Records)
Following a slew of 7″, 10″ and cassette releases on DIY labels such as Group Tightener, Fire Talk, and Clan Destine, noise-pop/garage/surf-rock act Dead Gaze, the moniker of Mississippi’s R. Cole Furlow, is finally readying a full length album.
Furlow has been releasing material under the guise of Dead Gaze since 2009. Though this album was mostly written, played, and recorded by Furlow recently Dead Gaze has morphed into a five piece live band. The album brings together highlights from his back catalogue (most now out of print) as well as new unheard material.
“Remember What Brought Us Here” opens proceedings and introduces us to the bizarre and noisy world of Dead Gaze. Where the standard for garage rock is drums, bass and guitars turned up to 11, Dead Gaze creates the same racket but with a distinctively electronic edge. A densely layered wall of noise made up of distorted vocals, drum loops, guitars, keyboards, and (synth)bass are all set to overdrive yet deliver sugar sweet 50’s inspired surf-rock melodies. Think Bos Angeles meets Crocodiles with all sunshine, grit and grime of Ty Segall.
The uptempo and garagey “You’ll Carry On Nice” follows and is driven by a Buzzcocks style punk-rock riff and Furlow’s heavily effected vocals, which sound like they’re submerged deep underwater. “This Big World” continues with trashy garage noise and big riffing this time sounding like a warped Nirvana with Weezer-esque pop melodies.
Dead Gaze may not reinvent the wheel with their tunes but their sound is a distinctive one. Along with the quirky noises layered atop of the songs, the album’s overly-compressed sound is immediately noticeable (jarring, in fact) but it’s a technique which has come from Furlow’s belief in the importance of production as another instrument stating “I think texture is something that is just as important as writing nice melodies and recording big songs”.
Easing up on the noise, “Future Loves and Sing Abouts” is a slice of summer fun characterised by plinky-plonky mandolin and nonchalant vocals then drowned in a soundtrack of bizarre Flaming Lips-like effects. Similarly, “Glory Days For Sure” puts weirdness aside momentarily and moves things in a different direction entirely. An album highlight track, “Glory Days For Sure” is dreamy and awash with 80’s synths and clean melodic guitar lines that recall The Cure. Unfortunately, in comparison, noisy garage-surf tracks like “There’s A Time To Be Stupid” and “Take Me Home or I Die Alone” begin to feel stale.
“Back and Forth” returns to more of the surf-inspired, sun-soaked noise while “I Found The Ending”, with its Kavinsky-like keyboard melody, is a solid slice of dream-pop reminiscent of DIIV (read our review of their brilliant ‘Oshin’ album from last year).
The album ends on a high note with the dream-pop closer “Fight Til Death”, which puts production to one side and concentrates on songcraft with the track even exhibiting anthem-like qualities.
As intense as it may be (especially at high volumes!) there’s certainly enough ear-candy on the Dead Gaze debut to please. If there are criticisms of the record it’s that at times it feels as if production and kitsch take higher priority over the song writing itself. Secondly, being that it is a compilation of songs that switch back and forth between styles frequently, it makes for a “patchy” listen and thus feels more like a showcase or demo. If the final track is a hint at the band’s current direction, we eagerly await the first actual studio album.
The self-titled album from Dead Gaze will be released digitally and vinyl LP on 25 March, 2013 in the UK and 21 May in the U.S. There is an exclusive deluxe digital edition also available from the FatCat Records store with two bonus tracks (“Warm Room, Warm Home” and “Trash All Your Worries”).
Listen to “I Found The Ending” below: