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The Dead 60s have been on the verge of a breakthrough for five years now. Formerly known as Pinhole, they’ve toured with Green Day and recorded a session with John Peel. Now they’re back, renamed, with an eponymous and hugely successful debut album, and now new album, Time To Take Sides, due for release in August.
Tonight they’re at The Soul Tree in Cambridge, England. The venue spends most of its time being a petite nightclub spread over three floors but, just for now, it is merely an intimate place for one of Britain’s brightest music talents to prove that this time they mean business.
They have one support act, Wigan’s The Suzukis, which the crowd wait patiently to witness. An hour after the doors open they strut onto stage and immediately begin to churn out their brand of unobtrusive punk. Rooted to the floor, they stand and holler at the masses before them. Their sound is somewhere between The Clash and Sum 41 and it’s mostly uninspiring. They’ve bought a roadie with them who entertains more than the band. He’s dividing his time between running to and from the bar to supply his boys with a constant stream of over-priced bottled beer, and dancing in jerked thrashing motions to each song. To be honest, he’s the only thing expending energy.
Half-an-hour passes and The Suzukis run out of songs. The dull thump of the house music sparks back up and we’re left to await the main act. And wait. It’s almost as if they’re missing a second support act tonight because the gap between bands is interminable. A wander reveals that there is only one floor of the venue open tonight. Downstairs is having a refit and upstairs is clearly out of bounds, which is a shame. The top floor is an excellent balcony level and would have afforded a fine view of the bands through the big hole in the floor.
Back on the first floor the fans are restless and spilling out into the aisle and quickly the bouncers are out and trying to restore a clearway. Five minutes later and we realise why. Here come the Dead 60s through the crowd from the back and onto stage.
Immediately they’re playing some new songs and it takes a little while until they get a reaction. It’s four songs in before the ska sound, for which they’re loved, comes out. The response is immediate and the first five rows start jumping politely on the spot.
It’s hard to really pigeon-hole the Dead 60s sound. They’ve been likened to The Specials but tonight it’s like Madness have eaten The Stone Roses. Each song brings something else to the table. Dub, ska, punk, pop-rock, indie, even reggae makes an appearance. Often it’s a fusion of these which results in a slightly muddled delivery which takes some getting used to. Despite this the band is tight, honest and passionate. Keyboard/guitarist, Ben, drifts between instruments seamlessly, whilst lead vocalist, Matt, belches a rapid volley of lyrics whilst staring unnervingly, yet, unseeing into the eyes of the crowd.
Half-way through their hour-long set they peak as they segue into their hit single, Riot Radio, allowing the simmering fans to temporarily boil into a moshpit. One more sequence of ethereal dub and they’re bringing proceedings to a close. All too soon the pork-pie hats and polo shirts are filtering back outside, some perplexed faces amongst them. For the Dead 60s to really show off their outstanding talent for penning a good tune they’re going to need to settle on one clear sound. The first album was oozing with bouncing ska and dub, but a lot of tonight’s new songs are slower, more indie-oriented and they didn’t quite cut the mustard live.
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