The Deadbeats

On Tar Beach

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While the Deadbeats fit best in the psychobilly scene that was percolating in the U.K. when they released their sole album, On Tar Beach, in 1985 (especially since drummer Mark Robertson had previously kept time for the Meteors), the band's formula was a good bit different than their peers on the scene. Singer and primary songwriter Suzy May's voice bore a certain resemblance to Chrissie Hynde, but May displayed a touch of vulnerability and a sense of drama that set her apart from the tough rockin' chicks on the roots scene, and instead of relying entirely on rockabilly, she injected elements of vintage girl group pop, surf music, and garage rock into the group's mix, and had just the personality and the pipes to pull it all off. Judging from On Tar Beach, May was the most imaginative person in the band, stepping outside the boundaries of the rockabilly/roots template on a regular basis, but Tony Berrington's guitar skills are impressive, even if he often relies on riffs you've heard before, and bassist Kevin Green and drummer Robertson are a solid and versatile rhythm section, adding a jazzy sense of space on the quieter numbers while rocking reliably when they turn up the tempo. And though the Deadbeats weren't the first band to rock up Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," they gave it an ominous sneer that's fun and effective. While they were received as conquering heroes in France, the Deadbeats called it a day not long after On Tar Beach was released, and it's a shame; they were a clever band with good ideas and the ability to make something out of them, and it's interesting to imagine what they might have done on their sophomore album. Still, if you're only going to have one long-player on your résumé, On Tar Beach is a pretty good one to be able to call your own, and it's brighter and better than a significant majority of '80s psychobilly efforts.

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