Leftovers and Rarities - The Dead Brothers (Future Folklore Records)
Future Folklore is very much a new label; "Leftovers and Rarities" bears the product number FFR001. It’s a vinyl record first; and limited at that, which means because the band are damned popular in Europe, if you’ve heard the Dead Brothers, you want it and you’re going to regret forking out for Prince last week or whenever it was.
The odds ’n’ sods of most bands don’t usually make for decent records, though, let’s face it. For every great KISS LP, there’s a wagon-load of stinkers. “Black Moose”was the last time I reviewed The Dead Brothers; so rather than be fair about this, I’m going to ignore all the trainspotterish notes other journos will jump on, and treat “Leftovers and Rarities” as a new, possibly “lost” album.
It doesn’t matter, though, because The Dead Brothers are not like KISS. I reckon the Brothers are better; they find more time on my turntable than the root rats in make-up and skanky plastic cossies. First up, The Dead Brothers have a cracking, clever singer who knows when to sing and when not to (on that note, shoot that Modest Mouse singer, someone).
There’s big, gutsy drama here, wonky waltzes (er, sorry hard rock types, that’s a popular dance which allows ladies and gentlemen to get to know each other’s physicality without getting all naked and gruesome).
The music is measured, powerful, elegiac in places, amusing and wry in others. It takes a lot of talent to compose music like this; so much balance, depth and smarts it’s a bit difficult to know where to begin. There are moments when you swear country and western should be as sharp and modern, as switched-on as this. Back to real emotions and real people instead of the usual cliches about grandma freezing on the porch swing and jerky being the only fruit. In fact, the occasional studio chatter endears us to the band, revealing an engaging reality.
Perhaps you should listen to it. Yes, that seems reasonable. After all, it’s a five bottle record.
Notable covers include the Eurhythmics’ song “Sweet Dreams”, the only song by that band I rate, and naturally this version has more svelte gravitas, chops and meaning than the Eurarrhythmian’s tedious bonking lope. The Mafia’s “Wind in the Willows” is simply wonderful, an instrumental which puts you right among the Mediterranean ports and lonely sailors, bawds and too much sour red wine.
I have a few favourites; “Cold Outside”, for example, “Harz Wo Zieht es Dil” from Side B, and the rather 1920’s French jazz piano approach to the Birthday Party’s “Dull Day” is lovely; The Dead Brothers have taken the song and stripped it down to its essentials, then approached it with simple belief. If I wasn’t such a stupid fan of the BP, I’d say this version was betterI
The shift from Side A to B is notable, but not jagged. Side A showcases the music as well as the song; “Buried Alive” kicks Side B off by focussing on the lyrics, followed by “The Streets of Baltimore”, which is one of those hits Johnny Cash should’ve written.
Side B also hosts a rather peculiar spiral into a small-world instability, “Jolie Blonde” is about as insidiously wonky as I can take. “Shades of Deliverance” but in a village settled by the Swiss. The LP’s closer, “Auf Dem Flusse”, starts like the beginning of a horror film (more like “Triangle” than a slice’n’dice flick) and continues …
Look, The Dead Brothers are now touring Europe. Check your flight schedules and catch them if they’re not coming to your town. They’re easily one of the most interesting, essential outfits playing in the real world.
So, check your list of present-giving relatives and pester them for an early birthday/Chrissy present; “Leftovers and Rarities”. If not, you’ll have to extend the credit card. Get to it before it sells out.