Dead Confederate: SUGAR

Fri Nov 12 2010
If you’re familiar with Dead Confederate’s first album (2008’s excellent Wrecking Ball), the first thing you’re going to think when you hear this sophomore release is ‘who’s this whiny, nasally singer?’  Next: ‘what’s with all these major chords?’  And before long, ‘where’s all the reverb?’  Relax!  It’s only the first song.

But this really does not sound like the same Hardy Morris whose tortured pipes made the first album so achingly beautiful.  He now sounds like a cross between Ben Weasel and latter-day Billy Corgan, with unflattering Les Claypool flourishes, pretty much throughout the album.

Musically, the album starts out toothless, but it actually builds momentum as it goes along.  “Quiet Kid” is the first sign of life, an engaging drunken drawl, but “By Design” shoots for tender and lands squarely on bland.  “Mob Scene” sounds like a different, still-hungry band, exuberant rock and roll, and “Giving It All Away” (abetted by J Mascis on guitar) is the sort of heartfelt, epic power ballad that’s rough enough not to be cringeworthy.  But in effect, it builds you up just to let you down; what should follow, a couple of grand, grungy monster-dirges, never materialize.  Instead, there are two germs of ideas that never develop into satisfying songs.

In essence, those initial questions never get answered; thus, most of the qualities that made Wrecking Ball great are absent here.  Messing with the formula is generally a good thing, but not at the expense of a richly rewarding, unique style.  What’s left is a sizable letdown of a pretty decent album.

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