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Album review: The Dead Girls - Fade In/Fade Out

Album review: The Dead Girls - Fade In/Fade Out

(Photo by Rachel Meyers)
It doesn't seem too premature to consider The Dead Girls’ latest effort Fade In/Fade Out a strong contender for best local pop album of the year.
The four-piece power pop group, who also cites classic, heavy guitar rockers like KISS and Thin Lizzy as influences, is releasing its first full-length album since 2010’s Out of Earshot. Though they also released a 7” single in 2012 (She Laughed A Little), the new LP has been highly anticipated by fans and the band itself.
“We started recording FIFO in 2009,” said guitarist and vocalist Cameron Hawk. “We were putting the finishing touches on Out of Earshot, and then went in to track drums for a few new tunes. We were thinking like, ‘Man, we’re gonna be done recording this new album even before Out of Earshot comes out!’ Now, here we are, three-and-a-half years later. It’s the story of our lives, really.”
That said, this album is well worth the wait. FIFO was produced by Chris Cosgrove, who has been an integral part of The Dead Girls’ recorded sound since producing Out of Earshot and their previous EPs Te Quiero and Hair Trigger. According to Hawk, Cosgrove helped push this recording in a stronger direction. “He was very set on having really different guitar sounds for every song; some of this extra layering resulted in more than 70 tracks on a few songs. Virtually every guitar track features a different amp, guitar, setting, or all of the above. Also, Chris had this wall of amps for us to choose from, so it was pretty much a guitar player’s heaven.”
Layered guitar sounds are evident throughout the album, weaving masterfully between a big entrance in lead-off track “Never Erased” to a soft, crisp acoustic guitar progression in the sincere track “Sing It Soft.” In the same vein, the songs gracefully transition from energetic to heartfelt. The contrast between Hawk’s and co-writer/vocalist/guitarist JoJo Longbottom’s songs is enough to create variety on each track, but the sense of what makes a Dead Girls’ song remains intact.
According to Hawk, all of the songs on this album are written separately by him or Longbottom. “JoJo and I will write songs on our own and bring them to the table through demos we record at home,” noting that each composition undergoes an intense collaborative scrunity by the band. “We’ve found a system that really works for us, and we’re getting better at it all the time.”
On songs like “The Beast Inside,” you hear the punk vocal stylings of Longbottom, which also maintain a smooth, accessible higher range. On the other hand, Hawk’s voice leans toward a purer pop tone like Alex Chilton with a slightly gritty rock ‘n roll edge. With their songwriting and Thin Lizzy-style dueling guitar attacks, Hawk and Longbottom construct nearly flawless pop songs with the help of a booming rhythm section from Eric Melin and Nick Colby. Some of album’s songs are structured like standard, quality pop songs; yet there’s a secret touch that comes from each member contributing his own part. Colby throws in gripping bass lines in addition to establishing a sturdy foundation to propel each track. Melin complements Colby (they’ve been together since the days of Ultimate Fakebook), punctuating each chug with a solid beat. He precisely attacks the skins on each track, and initiates crucial breaks that give songs an extra bite.
Flaming Lips’ drummer Kliph Scurlock, a friend of the band’s (he recently filled in at a gig for a sick Melin), mastered FIFO. The element of adding another ear to the recording process—especially from someone familiar with the group’s sound—also shaped the overall sound of the album. “’I Feel You’ (a nearly seven-and-a-half-minute song) was actually split into two tracks originally, but Kliph helped us understand that it should be a single song.Sometimes, one person will see something not even five other people can see,” said Hawk. With all of these elements, Fade In/Fade Out demonstrates a work of pop mastery from a group of true musicians.
Fade In/Fade Out will be released for digital download tomorrow, Friday, February 1, on The Dead Girls’ Bandcamp page. The group will be celebrating the release with a show that evening at Replay Lounge with The Depth and The Whisper. On Saturday, February 2, the boys will celebrate on the other side of the state line at recordBar with Gentleman Savage and The Casket Lottery.The Dead Girls were also one of over 40 KC artists selected to play the 2013 MidCoast Takeover showcase at SXSW from March 13-16 at Shangri-La in Austin, Texas.
--Michelle Bacon

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