Blending the attitude of The Stooges and Billy Childish with some traditional Howlin’ Wolf-esque blues grooves, The Dead Exs debut record ‘Resurrection’ was one of the finest releases of 2011. Since the New York duo’s fuzzy sounds have their obvious limitations, a follow up record ran the risk of just settling for more of the same, but thankfully, although it has many similarities, 2012’s ‘Relovolution’ takes the band’s talents and in many places pushes them to deliver a more mature record.
The title cut begins the album in style with a rallying cry before David Pattillo (guitar/vox) and Wylie Wirth (drums) throw themselves headlong into a stomper driven by furious slide guitar work and an aggressive reinterpretation of Johnny Cash’s “boom-chick-a-boom” rhythms. In just under three minutes, these guys work up a real sweat as Wirth absolutely dominates with an unshakeable drum line, while Patillo’s heavily distorted voice cries out with carefree abandon. Similarly, on the reverb drenched ‘White Collar Crime’ the duo adopt the subtlety of a truck as they crash headlong through a number which takes everything that made them great previously, turning everything up to eleven in the process. It’s like experiencing Jon Spencer tackling Leadbelly’s ‘Rock Island Line’ while having his demons exorcised.
A largely unaccompanied vocal punctuated by two chords makes ‘Get Over’ immediately striking, and while this tune could have fit snugly onto ‘Resurrection’, with extra experience under their belts this performance sounds a touch more self-assured than The Dead Exs did previously. Wirth attacks his kit with the kind of energy befitting of a garage blues band, but occasional bass pedal moments hint at a more focused edge to his playing than before. Tackling something a little more unexpected, on parts of ‘Let The Natives Loose’, Pattillo’s guitar mixes staccato rhythms and bigger, longer blues-filled notes in a way not quite experienced on a Dead Exs recording before. The more sophisticated approach to light, shade and subtler grooves suggest that these guys have worked very hard to ensure ‘Relovolution’ has elements which catch even their most staunch fans a little unaware.
While ‘Relovolution’ is a very consistent album, three of its most essential tracks are also its most commercial, relatively speaking. Putting Pattillo and Wirth in pure blues mode with a strong ‘Little Red Rooster’ influence, ‘Paper Doll’ is tough yet lean, while ‘If You’ve Got The Time, I Got The Love’ owes a great debt to Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brand of Texan boogie blues. Its main riff blends distorted edginess and very accessible blues tones in a fashion that is certainly far smoother than anything from The Dead Exs’ debut. Although slightly sleazier, similar grooves sit at the heart of ‘Don’t Mess With The Girl From Texas’, a track which captures both musicians in a restrained mood, pulling the best from the kind of blues sounds which would suit Walter Trout, SRV et al. There’s enough grit on each of these numbers to avoid the band being labelled sell-outs by those members of their audience who prefer things a little more raucous, while the more accessible elements may help pull in a few unfamiliar listeners.
Like ‘Resurrection’, ‘Relovolution’ is a release that quickly grabs the listener and then refuses to let go. Although a couple of bouts with the Texan blues and a few moodier numbers helps to ensure it isn’t a carbon copy of its predecessor, most people will be thankful of this album’s largely familiar nature. There’s more than enough variety here to keep you listening… Join the “Relovolution” now!