Dead Letter Dept, formerly known as the Stiffs (& not to be confused with Blackburns legendary Stiffs Ed.), have been together seven years and released six albums. You'd think by now they'd be bored of trying.
The three Canadian jokers are keen to be labelled 'an honest, hardworking DIY band', they deliver energetic, involved performances, are the instigators of their own musical 'progression' and are apparently filled with enough 'heart', 'integrity' and 'angst' to effortlessly knock out any shallow, money-grabbing major runners in their breathless race to success. Sounds good in theory, though it is just theory.
False truths aside DLD are one big contradiction.
Whilst shouting out with such aggression against chart topping supposed 'punk' bands ('The lack of top 40 has got the target market pissed') they ironically, and no, this isn't a comical paradox of mockery, produce a sound so similar to the attention demanding sell-out bands, that they may as well quit the act and give Greenday a big ol' friendly 'punk' hand on their next knock-out tour for the UK's biggest under 12's scene of look-up's. Yes it's the same tired Power- Pop, the same adolescent whining voice, and the same over-heard energetic, bouncing tunes, consistently rammed down our gagging throats. Whatever happened to diversity and originality? It got lost along the way to the Quick-money, one idea, comfortable recording studio. Not that DLD are quite there yet, but I have a strong feeling they'd give it all away to be up with the rest of them.
Whilst attempting to draw in a few shallow music followers names are carelessly dropped and thrown about like awkward attachments. Despite being clearly highlighted, underlined and reiterated DLD ain't no Beatles, they ain't no Buzzcocks, and they certainly ain't no Ramones. Who are they kidding? Do they really think after the CD is slammed on, people will overlook the fact that the sounds promised are not the sounds shouting out of their speakers? C'mon kids, now let's be honest. There's nothing worse than pretending to be
something you're so obviously not.
Interpreting the Punk basis almost on a parallel to Wire, Dead Letter's furiously fast playing, on the majority of their songs, puts them in a familiar and comfortable place. It's just a shame there's nothing to back it up.
Dead Letter's Anthology UK is 20 songs, 11 of which are under The Stiffs moniker. The full-length holds dizzy power-pop, consistent harassing beats, simplistic blurring guitar rhythms (which fail to change throughout the whole LP) and tiresome high school vocals.
Madeline is about girls. Have I Told You Lately' is about girls. The Only Girl, surprisingly, is about girls. I don't know about you, but I can see a pattern emerging. The few remaining songs are about: space ships, being 15, and the occasional attempt at political opinion. Why choose to write songs if you've nothing worthwhile to say? I'm told not to leave off "It Isn't So Black & White". Left on repeat play - still no revelations. The same shallow whinings, laughable socio-political comment and 'romantic' games. This is song writing 'a la beauly'. Knock down whoever's in the way, "DLD for poets of the year." One thing you can be certain of, once past the blatant lie of a band description: what you see is what you get. Yes, it's hard to take DLD seriously, with their clumsy self-defeatist lyrics and desperate attempts to rhyme every line, not that it matters anyway as their high dronings are drowned out by their even blurrier music. Each song bleeds into the next, none holding down any tune significant enough to distinguish.
DLD are trying so hard to convince they don't give a damn with songs like Fuck The World and You'll Pretend To Leave & I'll Pretend To Care that they appear as nothing more than teenage idolisers with an attitude problem, hanging on to every word of response they receive. These giggling high schoolers sure put on a show, anyone pulls a camera out and they're straight into their comical school-boy poses, followed by an extended silence as they wait for the laughs they believe they deserve. Jokers who take their own sounds far too seriously.
Forgetting the music and all that goes with, DLD do put in the work. If you've got passion and ambition you can get anywhere, right? Don't forget, these kids are full of heart and good intentions, but we'll have to look elsewhere for the self-promised 'bloody halo for your broken radio'. Nice thought though.
Safe, clean, harnessed 'punk' that won't keep you up at night, contradicting all that the Old Skool stood for. If this is all modern dayers have got, I'm going to resign to the days of old and accept that the Punk-posers of today will never compare.
Get those headphones on and stick to the past. This is the 'Modern World' and it's truly dull.
Nat Shooter tMx10 July 2003