After a couple of great EPs, New York’s Dead Stars have completed their debut full-length, Slumber. As an early fan of the band, let me tell you that it’s more than lived up to my expectations. It sounds like a composite of Dinosaur Jr and Nada Surf, using great guitar work to enhance the group’s melodic sound.
When “Someone Else” opens the record, you can hear the band pushing forth with distorted guitar work and a pounding rhythm section. It’s the best way to open this record, providing listeners with a glimpse of the band’s brand of guitar pop. But, while there’s a definite wall of noise, beneath it all lays the secret to the group’s success: it’s all pop inside. Just take one listen to the tone of the vocals and you’ll get precisely what I’m talking about. But, while the opening tune on Slumber is rather loud, the group does possess a natural skill to pull back, as they do on the next few tracks, “Summer Bummer” and “Walking Away.” These two tracks offer up gentler takes on guitar pop, with a more relaxed feel and a larger focus on harmony.
Still, the bread and butter for the band, in my opinion, are when they turn up and rock it out. “Crawl” is the perfect vision of this attribute; the guitar has a sharp edge to it, and the song seems to almost work too fast, creating this excellent tension that’s fully unleashed when the band angrily launches into the chorus of “I can crawl away if you want” for the third time, just before the track abruptly ends. Your last look at like-minded tunes comes via “Wasted,” which is placed perfectly near the end of the record. The distorted guitar work gives just the right amount of energy, balancing out the softer end of the LP.
While Dead Stars choose to slow things down a bit on that latter half of Slumber, you’ll still find some really special songs lurking about, such as “Older.” It’s a strummed ballad with a really soft touch on the vocal; you could easily see the band fleshing this out into another distorted guitar pop tune, but their reluctance to do so actually makes the song more refreshing, providing a little bit of differentiation within the confines of the album. I’ve also grown to enjoy “Never Knew You” quite a bit. There’s some recording touches like the clicking of the drum sticks in spots that really add a cool touch.
In the end, Dead Stars have completed an album that’s perfect as summer really gets underway. It’s filled with songs that you can blast on your stereo while you sing along to your favorite lyrical pieces. With guitar pop regaining it’s prominence in the rock n’ roll world, you’re not likely to find it executed any better than on Slumber…so what are you waiting for.
Download: Dead Stars – Crawl [MP3]
Available now via Old Flame Records.