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Album review: Dead Cities – This Killer Wave

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Artist: Dead Cities 

Album: This Killer Wave



The universe has so many unanswered questions. Why is the sun’s corona hotter than its surface? Why is Eastenders so depressing? And when are Dead Cities, Liverpool’s favourite Indie alt-folk trio, going to get round to releasing an album?

While scientists have been busy working on the first question (and ignoring the second) we’re happy to announce the answer to the third question is 28th November 2011.

Since forming in 2008, Dead Cities – Martin Stilwell, Oli Hughes, and Ryan Wyatt – have created and developed a sound all their own, and This Killer Wave perfectly sums this up. A simple combination of percussion, bass, and guitar (alternating between electric and acoustic), along with genuine vocals and good songwriting proves that you don’t need to be over the top, loud and ‘in your face’ to make an impact and get your musical voice heard. With Dead Cities, less is very much more.

The opening track Road To Your House hooks the listener with a four chord progression and bass riff combo that’s repeated throughout the song. I say ‘hooks’ literally as the riff has been going round and round the inside of my head for the past week! The song starts quietly and draws you in to the somewhat disturbing story of unrequited love, eventually building up to a louder, more intense climax. Very cleverly done. 

The Kissing Gate is an unconventional love song with a sound that at times echoes back to the guitar bands of the sixties. When Your Heart Gets Sick kicks off with acoustic guitar, and like the previous track has hints of The Kinks and early Beatles. Saddest Star is a catchy, more poppy, up-tempo track, once again with acoustic guitar, and the addition of glockenspiel, and did I hear a ukulele? It’s a story with a moral too, advising the applicant for some unnamed talent agency/contest/fame school (that’s my guess, anyway) “you’re free, my friend. I recommend you take a chance and walk again”. 

The title track from the album is the cracking This Killer Wave, complete with wave sounds, ukulele, Hawaii-esqe slide guitar, and sweet harmonies. Hours is the first track with piano, and it’s used to great effect in a song which, like the opening track, builds in intensity throughout from start to finish. It’s pretty rare these days for a song to fade in at the start, but when it’s called Tape Song 2 you can’t help thinking it faded in from the unused Tape Song 1. With it the album picks up pace again with both electric and acoustic guitar, and a driving beat from percussion and bass. Let The Love In and Old Man keep up the pace, and continue Dead Cities’ introspective theme, suiting the style of music to a tee.

Dead Cities (the track, not the band) canters along at a leisurely pace, and has a delightful Kinks-esque chorus section. Sign Me Your Name has a real folky feel thanks to the mandolin, and the slide guitar is back for the final track A Crack In The Hand.

Of the twelve tracks on This Killer Wave, six of them can be found on their two untitled, limited edition 2009 demo EPs (with only one track – Face Forgot – not making the transition from EP to album). Personally, I’m glad to see the older tracks included on the debut album as it would have been a shame if the band’s newer fans had been deprived of hearing them alongside the more recent songs.

This Killer Wave perfectly showcases the collective talents of Dead Cities, both with the songwriting and the performing. It’s well recorded, and the fact that it’s taken so long to arrive shows that they’re not prepared to be rushed into the creative process, and have instead taken their time to make sure they’re as happy with the final product as their fans are sure to be. Having said that, this excellent album is long overdue, although if the next album is as good as This Killer Wave it’ll be worth waiting another three years for. Almost!

This Killer Wave is being launched tonight, Saturday 26th November, at St Bride’s – details here.
It will be released as a digital download online and as a limited edition of 400 digipacks on Monday 28th November from their website

© 2011 Graham Holland
Liverpool Acoustic –

Graham Holland

About Graham Holland

Graham Holland is the owner and editor of the Liverpool Acoustic website, and runs Liverpool Acoustic’s award-winning live music events with local musician Stuart Todd. In real life he’s an Apple Education Trainer, has been producing podcasts on a regular basis since July 2006, and runs a number of websites for other organisations. He lives in Wavertree with his husband and their cat Xiao Hei.