Music News

Dead and Gone

If there has been a single prevailing premonition over the course of the last 10 months, it's that somewhere, somehow, everything has gone horribly wrong. The vacant malaise that was the 1990s has given way to white-knuckle terror, and quaint late-'80s boogeymen — hijacking, corporate scandal, nuclear winter — once again lurk in every closet and under every bed.

Berkeley combo Dead and Gone is the sonic approximation of the chaos that is the Oughts. It summons the same sick horror channeled by Bauhaus and the Birthday Party: Rockey Crane's guitars shriek and yelp, and vocalist Shane Baker snarls out prophecies as if the demon's got him by the throat. Each dark Wagnerian riff deepens the prevailing sense of hopelessness. Joey Perales' furious percussion erupts like machine-gun fire, constant and devastating, adding girth to the bludgeoning chords. The whole affair sounds like a ghastly, amplified exorcism.

Though Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong mentored the group in its embryonic stages, Dead and Gone has produced its latest effort, The Beautician, decidedly on its own terms. It would be difficult to imagine Armstrong's pop sensibilities aligning with such a dark, cacophonous work. Clicked three notches past thrash, Dead and Gone's songs are grim and bleak and furious, and Baker's lyrics have all the power and dread of Old Testament scripture. He allows his raw, ragged larynx to be the conduit for a stream of omens, promising, "The beginning was in silence/but the end is like a noose pulled tight."

Considered beside each bleak paragraph in the morning paper, Dead and Gone's angry, tempestuous punk cuts painfully close to the bone.

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J. Edward Keyes