Genre bending Dead Poet Society releases their debut album via Spinefarm Records on February 12. Formed in Boston, the technically astute band has since migrated West and fully re-emerged in 2002 LA. This is a band that easily could have been heard by teens at The Bronze in Sunnydale, squeezed between finales and vampire slaying.
The album’s first track opens on a short spoken recording, before jumping into the album’s first and only instrumental song, setting up new listeners to assume they will be getting a purely metal album. However, the album swerves between genres, telling the story of a toxic relationship.
Tracks ‘.burymewhole.,’ ‘.getawayontheweekend.,’ and ‘.intodeep.’ have a White Stripes meets Foxy Shazam feel, stemming from lead singer, Jack Underkrofler’s, octave jumping vocal range. These songs emote a hardcore sound, but glam rock arrangements can be heard under the domineering down beat.
‘I Never Loved Myself Like I Loved You,’ is striking in several ways. First, it is the only song that is titled in the traditional manner, standing out in the center of the album. Second, the dredge metal sound is ditched for a poppy, MGMT like ballad, with a pretty set of mixed vocals. I very easily could have been found dancing to this song at a college party, where everyone is on Molly and we are overly enthralled by some kid with fingertip lights on his gloves.
‘.SALT.’ is a jolting song to follow ‘I Never Loved Myself Like I Loved You.’ While I don’t see myself playing ‘.SALT.’ on repeat, I do think it has an interesting construction with hints of Marilyn Manson (the music – nothing else!).
‘.CoDA.’ and ‘.loveyoulikethat.’ specifically have a southern, grease rock vibe. These songs are the musicality of an ancient gator swimming through the swamp looking for his next meal.
Dead Poet Society made a decision to sneak in three spoken tracks throughout the album that showcase the band’s point of view of going against the grain and not giving a fuck about what anyone thinks. Unfortunately, by inserting these tracks, the listener is left with the opposite impression, that instead maybe the band cares too much. Specifically, track 13, ‘-gopi-‘ is the recording of a woman giving “not not” negative feedback to the band much to their chagrin. Even if this is staged, it’s an immature move by a band still finding its footing. Dead Poet Society is using these spoken tracks as a crutch to state the album’s thesis instead of relying on the songs to drive home the “we’re in a band and therefore we see the world different than you” point. Ultimately, it comes off patronizing and arrogant, especially with the choice of using a woman’s voice to provide the critique to the band. This is a conspicuous move for a breakup album and comes off as dismissal of women all together. I want to assume best intentions, but the choice does not endear Dead Poet Society to me.
While there are songs I like, overall the genre weaving was too much for me. I do not have an issue with bands pushing the boundaries of their sound, but as a listener I don’t know what the connective tissue is between each of Dead Poet Society’s songs when jumping from pop to metal. I know that Dead Poet Society does not wish to be categorized for the sake of critics, but as a potential fan, I’m island hopping and still looking for what I hope is buried treasured.
Find Dead Poet Society’s debut album, -!- (The Exclamation Album), via Spinefarm Records here, February 12th.