Glasgow 3-piece Dead Hope is something of an enigma. A proper underground band, you can Google them all you want but you’ll find little in the way of a band promo shot, official video, logo or any of the regular stuff that, for almost all other bands, is as much a part of the machine as the music itself. Google them though and you will find a link to their Bandcamp page where you can listen to/download/buy their debut album Songs From the Second Floor. It’s a terrific album packed full of short, sharp and angry blasts, Husker Du by way of Sonic Youth over 10 songs in just over half an hour. If you’re a regular here you may remember I’ve written about it before. Googling Dead Hope will also throw up a handful of links to reviews of their live shows. The piece that follows will hopefully be another for the Google analytics bots to link to.
Dead Hope played the tiny Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine on Friday night. It’s a seated venue, with seats on three sides of a floor space where the band plays. There’s not a stage in sight. The only people standing are the musicians. As a venue it’s perfect for acoustic nights and travelling theatre groups. It’s not a room normally conducive to hosting noisy post-punk acts, yet Dead Hope made it their own.
As befits a band with little in the way of self-promotion, they requested no lights other than the down lighters behind the drums. Previous gigs in the venue (I’m part of the team that puts them on) have seen any number of acts demand all manner of spotlights here, uplighters there, blue washes in the third number etc etc. Not Dead Hope. “No lights, please.” As the last notes of the support act had faded to a feedbacking hiss, Dead Hope vocalist Scott McLuskey quietly draped the amps, the drumkit, the mic stand, effect pedals and the floor with ropes of twinkling fairy lights. “The Devil is in the detail,” as they sing on album opener Pigs.
It was ethereal. Womb-like, even. Certainly, when the band took to the ‘stage’, you felt as if you were inside their wee world, audience and band as one. It was a perfect set-up. When they started playing, it was even better.
Dead Hope sound like a Panzer attack coming over the hill. Brutal, relentless and unforgiving, they make an almighty noise for a trio. The signs are there on the album of course, but played live, the songs leap off the fretboards like sparks from a welder’s blowtorch. Driven by Keith Martin’s machine-like drumming (think Stephen Morris at the wheel of Joy Division) and Andy Crone’s bulldog chewing a wasp bass, it’s up to Scott McLuskey to provide the vocals, the melody and the colour. It’s his guitar that sets Dead Hope apart from all others. Dead Hope love reverb. They love distortion. They love whacked-out echoes and dubby codas. McLuskey’s guitar (a vintage ’62 Fender Jag, I believe) provides these glorious textures.
Like all the best bands, and by this I mean the truly great bands who really matter (yer Clash and yer Joy Division and yer ‘Du and the likes), Dead Hope’s tracks blend seamlessly into one another. The album material – Pigs, Swordz, Thieves & Vultures and Landslide being the pick of the bunch – plus the one or two new tracks they played stretches the set to around 45 minutes, but it’s a breathless rush, over and out in what seems like 5 minutes. As you watch McLuskey hunched and leaning as he screams into the mic, cardigan and stripey t-shirt hanging loosely behind his battered Jag, you can picture Kurt Cobain. Andy Crone, standing stock still ‘stage’ left, staring into the middle distance with his legs shoulder width apart (“I couldn’t see what I was doing!” he explains later) and the metronomic Martin behind his kit provide the solid balance.
As I type, one prominent indie label has expressed an interest in re-releasing Songs From The Second Floor and giving it the platform it deserves. In a world of poseurs and pretenders, it’s the least anyone could do. There’s no pretence with Dead Hope. They’ll place substance over style every time. Dead Hope don’t play live that often, so it’s all the more important that you go and see them when they do. They play every show with a ferocity and honesty that suggests it might be the last show they ever play. Don’t miss out.
Dead Hope – Landslide
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