The Dead 60s

The Dead 60s

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The very name of the Dead 60s telegraphs the aesthetic of the Liverpudlian quartet -- they's sick of living in the shadow of '60s rock & roll culture, they want to tear down those giants and create their own icons. It's a sentiment not far removed from Joe Strummer's exhortation of "No Elvis, Beatles, and the Rolling Stones in 1977!," but he sang that in 1977, before Elvis died, seven years after the Beatles breakup, and when "Jumpin' Jack Flash" wasn't even ten years old. The Dead 60s released their eponymous debut album in 2005 -- nearly 30 years after the Clash released their debut. But where the Clash preached revolution, the Dead 60s practice tradition, using the punk of the late '70s as a sacred text, never daring to deviate from what was done before. They may synthesize, though: often, the band sounds like Joe Jackson fronting the Clash or the Specials, as they alternate between strident three-chord anthems and elastic dub-inspired punk-reggae. It's an appealing sound and the band is not only tight, but they're reasonably good songwriters, too, on both the rockers and spooky, spacy reggae. Nevertheless, the entire enterprise seems a little too tasteful and respectful, as if the group were so concerned with getting it right, they're reluctant to let loose. Plus, there's that nagging question of how does a band whose very name tears down one era of rock get away with fetishizing another time from the distant past -- it makes it seem as if the Dead 60s are living in the past instead of moving forward, and their album, as enjoyable as it is, doesn't dispel that notion. It's kind of like listening to the Stray Cats in 1982 -- they recreated the glory days of Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent, keeping rockabilly alive 26 years after its heyday. The Dead 60s do the same thing with punk, but there's not only a greater distance between them and punk than there was between the Stray Cats and rockabilly, they lack the energy and knowing sense of humor that gave Brian Setzer's trio life and hit singles. The Dead 60s are good musicians and show promise here -- their basic sound is good, even if it is heavily indebted to punk and ska revival -- but they're too enamored with the past to be truly memorable.

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