DEAD GIVEAWAYS – Underneath Everything

At the beginning of 2011, Dead Giveaways released their debut EP.  Across four songs, the Washington based band showcased a great energy, promising better things for their upcoming full-length release.   ‘Underneath Everything’ – that full length – features thirteen high-speed punky romps, and  if it’s high octane thrashiness you’re after, with its tales of partying, infidelity, partying, girls, booze and more partying, this should make an impression.

First off, the general edge to the band’s music, coupled with Aaron Moses’s slightly ragged vocal style, puts this firmly in the punk category as opposed to pop-punk.  Also, even though the band big up the rock ‘n’ roll elements in their sound, they’re not always as pronounced as they could be (unlike The Computers’ full-length for example).  With these elements combined, what we do have on our hands is a great high-energy disc and on numbers like ‘All Right Tonight’ and ‘The Best Thing’, the band proves they’re a force to be reckoned with.  Both numbers are straight up punk delivered with some simple but distinctive guitar leads, which recall moments from The Queers and Screeching Weasel back catalogues.  That should be enough to reel some of you in for a listen…

‘Right Now’ combines the speed of The Queers during their ‘Beat Off’ days with another infectious guitar riff which also echoes the best work of that band, while fusing it with a slightly more ragged lead voice.  As such, it doesn’t stretch the band’s talents, but is ultimately very enjoyable.  ‘The Devil On My Shoulder’ has a punk intensity, but hiding behind a wall of guitars is what’s essentially a bar-room country hoe-down played at breakneck speed.  A tale of cheating on your girlfriend is dressed up with fist-in-your-face subtlety and a sloppy guitar solo.  Joe Deal is a shining light behind the wall of sound; his fast bass runs – often very clear in the mix – save this tune from being one of the band’s more ordinary offerings.

‘Hell Yeah’ takes the power of numbers like ‘The Best Thing’ and injects a little rock ‘n’ roll edge, while never quite reaching the heights of punk ‘n’ roll.  There’s a definite influence from Supersuckers, and here, Dead Giveaways’ penchant for simple, infectious hooks is as subtle as a brick, making this one of many standouts.  Likewise, the hook from ‘Love Song’ is purposely designed to annoy and entertain in equal measure with its repeated line of “I want sex tonight!”  Musically, it’s yet another no-nonsense punky thrasher that’s a definite winner.  Originally featured on the band’s EP, ‘Dear Liver/9 Shots’ fuses punk with a hint of old style country (surely another influence from Tucson’s Supersuckers) and that drunken country vibe comes across stronger on the first half of this number than anywhere else on the release.  ‘Dear Liver’ acts as an intro sounding like an old scratchy record, while ‘9 Shots’ is another slice of punk with a slight influence from a country stomp.  While it could be described as great fun, chances are you’ll have heard something similar from a NOFX album in the past. Originality aside, the band are on form once more, with Matt Jones’s drumming sounding tight and furious…and yes, if you came hoping for another shout-along chorus, you’re not going to feel short-changed.

No decent punk album is complete without a cover tune, and ‘Underneath Everything’ is no exception.  While not an especially original choice (having already been tackled by fellow punks Humble Gods and ska-pop-punk band Dance Hall Crashers), Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’ gets another airing here.  What it lacks in inspiration it makes up for with sheer speed, since Dead Giveaways hammer through it as fast as they can: the twin guitars of Erik Gidney and Aaron Moses buzz away, while Jones’s drums and Deal’s rumbling bass provides most of the power.  The brilliance of Petty’s composition seems to shine no matter who’s in the driving seat and this is no exception, especially once these guys soften up for the bridge section… File under “inessential, but fun”.

With regard to musical tightness, Dead Giveaways mightn’t always be as consistent as some, but they have a great energy and their gift for penning infectious choruses constantly wins out.  Though it’s not a perfect album by any means, ‘Underneath Everything’ comes loaded with enough hooks to make it a punk disc that’s well worth investigating.

October 2011