The garage rock wave is definitely coming into Phoenix, as yet another local lo-fi act, Soft Deadlines, prepares to release its new album, Critic, on 56th Street Records. But Soft Deadlines isn't making the same sound as the Rubber Brother crowd -- it brings a more shoegaze feel to its music. But it is still following that growing trend of garage rock in the Valley.
Label owner Mike Red describes the music as "art rock for the dance crowd," while Soft Deadlines frontman and lead guitarist Oliver Lemke says his music is "polished but not slick. Warm, earthy, but with some jagged edges."
Regardless of what he chooses to call the sound, Critic, is a terrific debut LP. It's reminiscent of Instructions' most recent release, Summer Ghost Town, an excellent album in its own right. Critic features a definite punk aesthetic while incorporating big sounds reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky. Critics doesn't have a revolutionary new sound, but it is a familiar sound done really well.
Lemke says the band called it Critic because "most of the characters in the songs are difficult people, the type who could be labeled critics in a negative, accusatory way. It turned into kind of a motif and seemed like an appropriate title."
It's also appropriate because Lemke is a harsh critic of his own work. After three full listens of the album, I think it's a triumph for any band putting out its first record. But for Lemke, not so much.
"The limitations of our gear are certainly audible," he says. "We don't have a sonically treated room. That's probably the biggest drawback of our recording setup. Dropping an album was always a main goal. It just took us this long to put together something we were satisfied with.
Lemke has been playing with Chad Cussen on bass and Russ Hill on drums and percussion for a little under two years, and they have made the rounds at all the beginner-level local venues. I recently became aware of them when they elected to not play 101 The Feed's launch party following the station chief's racists Facebook outburst in response to a grand jury's decision not to prosecute Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in regard to his role in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man.
But racist Internet radio station doofs aside, Lemke, a native of Canada who made his way to Phoenix by way of Idaho and Austin, Texas, says that he has enjoyed his inclusion in the Phoenix music scene.
"I've found the scene to be a good one to start out in. There are some very cool, supportive people here, and a lot of talent. It's not at the saturation level of Austin, but in some ways that's good. You aren't competing with 15 other bands for every possible gig. I won't say it doesn't happen, but I haven't seen too much of it yet. I see a lot of groups teaming up for mutual advantage, and it's something I appreciate." says Lemke. "I could take or leave fame, but we're doing everything we can to make it a career. Something we can at least make a modest living at. We're going to play around town a lot."
Soft Deadlines has come a long way from its 2014 digital-only EP Nice Try and has hopes of doing more than just playing around Phoenix in 2015. After releasing the album, the band hopes to hit the road for its first tour. For its album release, Soft Deadlines will be joined by Hot Rock Supa Joint, The Echo Bombs, and Zodiac Bash. Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
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