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Dead Confederate - Wrecking Ball

  by Jeff Thiessen

published: 13 / 12 / 2009

Dead Confederate - Wrecking Ball
Label: Kartel Records
Format: CD


Disorienting, but ultimately addictive combination of psychedelia, Americana and grunge on first-rate debut album from Athens, Georgia-based band, Dead Confederate

It kind of goes without saying, any band with even the smallest amount of traditional rock sensibilities, emerging from the fine city of Athens, Georgia, will face some pretty song theoretical expectations. I’m not saying it’s fair, or even proportionate, Such presumptions have flimsy logic, at best, and even if I happen to think REM are criminally overrated (and this I do believe), that doesn’t change the fact their identity is forever intertwined with the very principles and values the city laid their foundation on. I’m bringing this up, because I’ve talked about Dead Confederate to a few people now, and the first thing that came up in nearly every instance of these conversations, was where the band hailed from. This consistent reaction I noticed from people must not go unnoticed or be trivialized, as it’s important to realize that if this is the sort of associative relevance people here give them, imagine the shackles they are burdened with back home. The ghost of R.E.M. in Athens isn’t akin to that subtle one in 'Paranormal Activities;' it’s more in line with that entity in 'Poltergeist' that wanted to devour everyone and everything. This might be the reason I dug 'Wrecking Ball' so much. Okay, it’s not the reason at all actually, but hearing Dead Confederate exist on their own terms while still not swearing off the primal roots of their historical hometown makes for a pretty brazen effort that end up succeeding on many levels. The first time I sat through 'Wrecking Ball' I was immediately reminded of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, not so much in arrangement or themes, but because there’s a lot of neo-psychedelia whirring about here. Much like BRMC, there is generally a glorious wash of noise hidden behind some overtly tender melodies and personal revelations. And much like BRMC, while that combination is always present, it’s always moving around, shuffling back and forth. The second time I sat through 'Wrecking Ball', I was immediately reminded of Led Zeppelin III. So....shit, what does that leave me with? Well, we have a record that isn’t afraid to push itself in new directions, although it must be said it never did strike me as something forced or intentional (thus, saving 'Wrecking Ball' from a huge slab of pretentious gruel that otherwise would have undoubtedly ensued). This is a fantastic feature of Wrecking Ball, but also one of its biggest detriments as well. It’s a terrific album, this much is clear. But I only reached that conclusion based on several facts (read: dogged, self-assured drunk opinions) I encountered with my time spent listening to 'Wrecking Ball'. a) First of all, the initial listen through the album probably won’t yield much satisfaction from most listeners. It’s catchy enough to warrant an aesthetically positive reaction, and it’s grungy enough to earn some hip pay-dirt on your hands, but the joys associated with both of these are pretty fleeting and yield little-to-no long term relevance. I don’t think I’m reaching when I say that 'Wrecking Ball' will be enjoyed by many, and studied by few, although those who do peel away the layers will probably never want to stop listening to it. This is because.... b) It is slyly disorienting. This won’t be apparent to anybody who doesn’t give themselves over to 'Wrecking Ball' though. Instead the reaction will just be something along the lines of “Not bad, but doesn’t really know what it wants to do with itself”, which couldn’t be more incorrect actually. The music here is insanely self-assured, which is why they have the balls to know exactly when to let a note live and die on its own barren island (like halfway through 'Yer Circus'), and also when to allow hell to come crashing down amidst an anthemic Cobainish chorus (the brilliant 'All the Angels', or 'The Rat'). Unfortunately, I’m severely concerned this nearly unparalleled attention to chaos theory will delegate them to bargain bins and an eternity of being nothing more than an opening act, and why? Because Dead Confederate’s best qualities are also the ones that sleep beneath the exterior, and when legions of morons are content to skim the surface skipping stones, the concept of justice will be placed firmly on the backburner in name of expediency. Makes me sad to even think about it, but hopefully I’m not being irrationally negative and making a worst-case scenario, the only-case scenario. When all is said and done, 'Wrecking Ball' has merciless, terrorizing rhythms....but also many times it has a feverish squealing in the background that can’t be ignored. That can't be ignored, nor can it be focused on. There are times where Dead Confederate even go the way of a fuzzed out Whiskeytown, but those moments generally disappear as quickly as they enter, and when they don’t, they’re assimilated into a blurry array of drowsy riffs punctuated by concentrated moaning drifting in and out of the aural clutter. Make no mistake, this is very interesting music, but I can’t stand the thought of an assortment of rock critics like me, the band themselves, and a handful of people who own really amazing headphones being the only cats around the block who can appreciate this music, the way it’s meant to be appreciated. I have no qualms at all recommending 'Wrecking Ball' on a very high level, but do me a favour....only invest your time and energy into this album, if you understand what Plato meant when he theorized the ‘reality’ we think we see is just shadows cast on the wall of our cave by the flickering light of the camp fire. I’m not being pretentious. Well I kind of am, but sometimes we have to make ourselves look pretty stupid when we’re trying to put something of great value in the right hands.

Track Listing:-
1 Heavy Petting
2 The Rat
3 Goner
4 It Was A Rose
5 Yer Circus
6 All the Angels
7 Start Me Laughing
8 The News Underneath
9 Flesh Colored Canvas
10 Wrecking Ball
11 Get Out (bonus track)
12 Tortured Artist Saint (bonus track)
13 Shadow The Walls (bonus track)

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