Dead Guitars – Stranger
Stranger is Dead Guitars third long-playing offering following the sepia-tinted hopefulness of debut album, Airplanes and the slightly more conventionally Goth rock, Flags .
The first of many things to love about this record is its title which works on so many different levels. Does it mean someone unfamiliar, something out of place, foreign even…. or does it mean weirder , simply? It’s a very clever title indeed and very relevant to the listening process. And listening is an absolute joy. My initial thought was ‘where the Hell did this come from?’ Guitarist Ralf Aussem took me literally and started explaining the origin of each track. The title track, for example, was recorded from a live jam. You won’t believe that when you hear it. The whole album is a production masterwork.
Stranger is the most expansive and ambitious DGs have ever sounded and I must confess, I never saw it coming; Some of these songs were showcased last year at a concert in Mönchengladbach, hometown to the two (Dead) guitarists, Aussem and Pete Brough . At the time I pegged the new pieces as ‘laid back’. Maybe, on the night, those choices were, but on Stranger they form part of an album that is alive to myriad possibilities. Put simply, Stranger is visionary. It’s as though DG’s went into the studio with Eno . (they didn’t, Aussem produced the record) Carlo Van Putten applies his melancholic coo in a variety of different stylistic ways (and through all manner of different mic techniques. Muffled musings give way to distorted implorations and the resultant opus is a triumph. Perhaps because I have seen DG’s in concert on many occasions and always admired their craft, I began to see the band as safe pair of hands, a trustworthy, nailed on, live act banker. And yet that makes the band sound like an elderly family doctor. They are not that at all. Flags already gave a clue but Stranger is the reveal, the dénouement. It is massive. Yet as ambitious as it undoubtedly is it never overreaches.
Dead Guitars should be rightly and justifiably proud of this piece of work; Songs like ‘Mesmerised’ and ‘Love Goddess’ provide the pop portals through which the listener can jump into this record, but the revelations will come elsewhere. I suppose ‘Fade Away’ will take most of the plaudits, a paean to Ian Curtis that could stand beside the very best of (trilogy) The Cure . The album ends superbly too. ‘You and I’ has Van Putten sounding like Bobby Gillespie jumping back into Screamadelica and on ‘Three Words….’ it could easily be Richard Ashcroft at the height of the Verve . Personally I’m still recovering from the title track, an exhilarating and essentially wordless stream of musical consciousness. Recorded live? I mean, how is that even possible? What next? A Neil Diamond cover?
…things have happened.