By Robert Freeman
October 01, 2013
There’s a tiny red room at the back of the stage at the Shacklewell Arms in Dalston, a little box-area quite separate from the main section of the stage, bathed in red. Tonight it has a drum kit in it. This is a suitably Lynchian setting for the rhythm section of a band that are wont to tread stranger ground than the majority of artists that have graced this stage. Mark Laughlin, D.C.-psych-folk-ATP-stalwarts Dead Meadow’s only member to have passed the national bar, sits down at the drums. Steve Kille and Jason Simon pick up their instruments, step on a couple of pedals, and proceed to play guitar music at a force that will – we cannot stress this enough – make you shit yourself. Unsurprising for such a woozy solipsistic strain of psych, 100% of the people in this room have their eyes closed, as Kille and Laughlin start to whip their instruments senseless and Simon opts unsurprisingly to launch into a 10 minute space-jam. Jason Simon knows how to hold a crowd. It’s with songs about elves, and a wa-wa pedal.
It’s been said that the lyrical abundance of wizards, gothic literary references and Lovecraftian multi-dimensions in Dead Meadow’s back catalogue suggests that the band might possibly have their psych-tongues in their space-folk cheeks. It’s hard to look at the ratty dress-up character in the video for ‘Mr. Wheezy’ or the front cover of Three Kings without agreeing. However this frame of mind forces one to put Dead Meadow into the self-defeating Sabbathian category of ‘having your cake and eating it’, which watching these three unassuming rock monsters tonight, is certainly not the case. If you’re casting a wry smile half the time you mention the Silmarillion, you can’t expect people not to chuckle when you change tack and start banging out max-gain stomp over the top of a song about fairies. Contrary to this though, Dead Meadow fans (from the state of this audience) like to just get sucked into the nerdiness and go along with it, whether they’re listening to a song about hobbits or not (they mostly are). Thank Christ, Dead Meadow are fully committed to not writing songs about “HOW I ONCE BROKE UP WITH A GIRL”. Watching them play is a heady brew of sub-bass judder and a narrative of otherworldliness (this other world also contains heavy guitars). If one had to choose between a band that play four chords and sing about ex-girlfriends or a band that play four chords and sing about giant vampire worms taking over the world, one would have to think only for between ten and fifteen seconds.
As well as chucking the big rhythms back into the new material (seventh studio album Warble Womb is out in the UK in a few weeks) it seems that Dead Meadow’s time hanging out with chart-topping, one-hit-wunderkind, Wolfmother was not time mis-spent. Ponderous acoustic walks through Rivendell are gone, and lead vocalist Jason Simon has made the sensible discovery that singing through one’s nostrils might not be the best way to get one’s message across. Despite previously being buried under a mountain of reverb, when you strip Simon of his nasal whine, beef his vocals up and bring them to the fore, lyrics about washing up on the shores of reality suddenly sweep their audience along with a flick of the tongue. Listening live, shrouded in smoke and light ,these three begin to transcend their music and transform into visionaries. And these visionaries own six foot Marshall plexi halfstacks. Get thee to a venue, sire.