Perhaps it was due to my summer-fried brain or the impossibly packed release schedule, but I completely missed On a Hook, the scorching debut full-length from Aussies Dead Already. Released in May, this killer LP from the Melbourne-based ragers marks their initial long player, despite an already prolific run that kicked off with a demo at the tail end of 2017. The self-anointed “anxiety punks” have thrown down the gauntlet, doubling down on the bilious and relentlessly catchy hXc I first peeked a preview of on last year’s Gilded Age of Piss EP.
For a relatively newer act, the album is impossibly tight. It’s a taut collection that mines as much from early '80s USHC as it does from Orange County’s snotty first wave. There are touches of manic East Bay Punk and East Bay intimidation. Their apropos description is on point, as they certainly have a restless energy that’s mirrored by their manic musical bruising.
There’s a level of hyper-literate brattiness that, lyrically and vocally, elevates the affair to a must-listen. They pair barbed aggression and urgency with a sense of the playful, an increasingly difficult proposition in the anxiety-inducing era in which we find ourselves living.
They maneuver easily between slingin’ gob at worthy marks and crafting deadly serious dark punk.
Aesthetic uniformity and consistent presentation seems to be of less concern in punk these days, but it’s another thing they’ve got down pat that only adds to the sense that the group is a unified front. This particular release marks their third consecutive cover consisting of dizzying, psychedelic spirals. I’m not sure if the cover artist known simply as Scott R intended to split the difference between obnoxious and glorious but, perhaps, that’s the point. It’s sure as shit on brand for the rabble-rousing crew from down under. With a crisp recording that balances bite with sonics via Al “Dr. Alien” Smith (Berserk! Studios), they’ve sprinted well past previous releases in every way. The album sounds huge and the locked in playing is captured perfectly.
"White Foam,” and its follow-up, “Death Trap,” peddle blown out, bellowed vocals delivered as if by megaphone. Considering the speedy instrumental blitz of the tune itself, the choruses are sneakily repeatable. They’ve clearly digested everything from classic stateside Hardcore to the catchier end of Beach Impediment style punk fury.
They keep the melodic fire going with “Creative Myth” which is the unholiest of takedowns. Engaging the paranoia in us all, it features scratching, choppy riff a la Hot Snakes all while skewering the science of myth. “Tired World” starts with a sample from “The Room” and somehow self-awareness keeps it from devolving into parody. Instead, it holds up the mirror at our collective idiocy and absurdity, albeit at 100 miles per hour. The backing vocals are particularly savage here and, when paired with fretboard abuse-cum solo, the mid album banger vaults itself into the album’s first highwater mark.
“Or Nearest Offer” is a slow and agitated build that ultimately disintegrates into straightforward '80s pandemonium. They know exactly when to clatter and the back half is a towering mess in all the right ways. “Steamed Hams” follows in similar fashion, it’s thumping tom intro quickly devolves into a speed trap. It’s a prime example of their dexterity and understanding of how pacing works. These songs, however poetic and well written, are still, at their core, designed to incinerate fascists. Incendiary, indeed.
There are moments that call to mind Grave Mistake Records, or their contemporaries in No Problem or Youth Avoiders. The common thread is that they exist without qualifiers. In much the same way Night Birds fit everywhere, Dead Already are hardcore punk, whatever that happens to mean to you. In the 40 some odd years since we were gifted the genre, there’s not a year in which this wouldn’t play.
“The Maw” is, in my opinion, another highlight on an album full of them. They again shine a light on their myriad talents here, from the up front rubbery bass to the martial snare runs and the vicious gang vocals. Dead Already sound far too vital to co-sign their moniker, but they make the resignation of being “already gone” sound masterful.
As we’re days away from the only holiday that matters, it’s fitting the LP happens to feature “Hollowed.” Starting with a demented surf attack, they lay on a heavy horror punk vibe that recalls The Damned when they first went goth, Static Age-era Misfits (whom they’re covering for an upcoming Halloween show) and a litany of killer first wave post-punk. They even toss in a spooky organ run for some inadvertent seasonal flare.
Lyrically, their choices are stunning. Bordering on prose that’s on just the right side of cryptic, it both sidesteps sloganeering and bumper sticker rallying cries often relied upon in the genre. Their righteous and scathing polemics find their firmest footing on tracks like the sharpshooting “Narc Zuckerberg” or “Jesus Is My Co-Conspirator.” When they drop the pace on the latter, their post-punk leanings shine in a way not heard en masse across the LP.
I won’t attempt to analyze what’re, in my opinion, lyrics that destroy the bell curve for the rest of y’all. I will say, however, that they manage to find new, inventive, and empowering ways to say, uhhhh, “fuck you” to whoever needs to hear it.
I’m also willing to award infinite bonus points for anyone willing to shoehorn a Vonnegut reference into the maelstrom. Dead Already manage a brilliant wink and nod to the Slaughterhouse Five author in “Ice Nine.”
Being that Dead Already are 10,000 plus miles away from me, their role in any scene escapes me. If they hailed from the various locales that inform their classic sound, they’d be fucking huge. Ride the white foam but beware of sharks. Pick this album up. You’re welcome.
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