Article by KevW
The music press, right from global brands down to the smallest blogs or free publications, are often guilty of over-hyping bands after a couple of impressive singles, only for the resulting album to not live up to expectations. This can be due to labels rushing groups for material to ride the crest of the wave, because the pressure is so much that the band in question feel the heat and buckle under the weight, or simply because, sometimes, we all get a bit carried away. Glasgow's The Deadline Shakes have been subjected to plenty of excitable reactions, not least from us, since they released the utterly sublime 'Bright Spot In A Bad Year' single two years ago. That track was a wondrous amalgamation of several decades of pop music and truly impressed. It's also a rerecorded (and even better) version of that song that opens up anticipated first LP 'Zealots'. How do you go about completing an album when such a high-water mark it stuck right at the start?
If you're The Deadline Shakes then you just keep on doing what you do best: taking classic rock, pop and indie music, whacking it all into a blender with some addictive melodies, beautiful arrangements. great production and a sprinkling of gold dust. Plus, if you've followed the band for a while then you'll know that they've come up with the goods at every turn so far. The string-filled, '70s-sounding 'Slipping From Your Heart' takes the approach mentioned above and turns out a delight of a song that isn't like any other groups currently doing the rounds. The attention to detail and the structure are amazing and unique. 'Sweeten The Deal' still comes over as rampant experimental guitar-pop that's full of fun, 'Phonecalls In The Bath' is the perfect vehicle for Greg Dingwall's splendid voice and is flooded with emotion and more of those glorious arrangements, and recent single 'Frozen Out' possess magical qualities that occasionally bring to mind 'Pet Sounds'-era Beach Boys.
In a way, The Deadline Shakes shouldn't work as well as they do. The '60s pop of bands like The Byrds and The Beatles, as well as classic indiepop, might be deemed suitable reference points, but ELO and Queen have never been particularly cool, especially the latter, although if you look past the novelty hits they had some great tunes hidden away on their early albums. With ELO recently back in the spotlight thanks to a new album and tour, they seem to have undergone a reappraisal though. The chorus to 'Shelters' could be lifted from one of their better known songs - if it had been covered by Sparks that is. In a way it sums up what this band are all about; normal song structures are thrown out of the window and replaced by music that drifts, shifts, and seems to have just teleported in from a fantasy land where you can go from '70s rock guitar bursts to delicate harmonious pieces in the space of a single track.
Adding crestfallen but gorgeous female vocals to the brief lament 'When Will I Ever Learn?' only makes the song more affecting, and the similarly short and tender 'You're Coming With Me' creates a similar atmosphere with some stirring strings. 'You Bring The Class' is the same kind of era-spanning, intricate alternative pop music that Guillimots have been attempting to make for the past decade or so, and its not the only time that 'Zealots' recalls that band, but where Guillimots have always been hit and miss, The Deadline Shakes dish up hit after hit. With 'A Little While Waiting' they almost toy with convention, but by halfway through it's gone off on a tangent without you even noticing. As disjointed as these songs may seem on paper, the transitions are always effortless. The secret to The Deadline Shakes' success is captured by the title of the song another former single 'Don't Be Too Cool', where we're left to wonder how anyone can take a combination of Guillimots, ABBA, Belle & Sebastian and Queen and not have the resulting track sound like a dog's dinner.
'Zealots', simply put, is an album that doesn't fit any trends, either old or new. It inhabits its own space where the only rule is that there are no rules and shows that the most unlikely of combinations can fit with stunning results in the right hands. This is brimming with more ideas than most bands will produce in a lifetime, and they're fully realised here. It may be wrong to get too excited about a band after only a couple of songs have been released, but The Deadline Shakes have proven that's not always the case. In fact, they've gone beyond that hype and surpassed expectations. 'Zealots' should be heralded as a classic debut album, and that's not an exaggeration. "Who can tell if you're gonna build it to last?" is a question posed on typically grandiose and eclectic finale, a new version of early recording 'Boy'. Well, predicting the future, especially in music, is a tricky business, but these thirteen songs have given us every right to consider The Deadline Shakes one of the best new bands in the country.
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