For as great of a band as Dead To Me is, they're so immersed in style and culture that they've always seemed almost as much like an art collective as a rock and roll outfit. They draw on such disparate sonic, visual and intellectual influences as Brit rock, graffiti, Slavic prison tattoos, Midwestern punk, reggae, Day of the Dead iconography, old school hip-hop and modern American History. Dead To Me's current incarnation finds Ian and Chicken joining forces with Ken of Enemy You/Western Addiction fame and Sam from New Mexican Disaster Squad to put forth their latest effort, Moscow Penny Ante, recorded with the handsome and talented Matt Allison at Atlas studios (Alkaline Trio, Lawrence Arms), due out on Fat Wreck Chords on October 25th. As usual, it's nothing less than the exact opposite of what you'd expect from Dead To Me.
After 2009's critically acclaimed African Elephants, which was as much pop, reggae and dissonant experimentation as it was punk rock, Dead To Me is back with an album that revisits and updates the classic sound that first caught everyone's attention on 2006's Cuban Ballerina. This is anything but a retread, though. On Moscow Penny Ante, DTM is more dynamic, more pummeling and more downright awesome than ever before. Remember Rocky IV when Rocky went up to the mountains to train at altitude in order to be able to match his strength with the vastly bigger and more handsome Ivan Drago? Well, consider the wild departure of African Elephants to be the altitude training for the explosion of footwork and uppercuts that is Moscow Penny Ante. All the experimentation and quirky left turns of Elephants sharpened the DTM guys' sense of melody and arrangement. Now that they're back at sea level, they're cranking out the punk rock songs they're known for with an intensity and skill that can only come from working outside of your comfort zone for a long time and then returning to what you're best at, with a new take on your classic technique, just like Rocky did when he beat Drago, blew the minds of the Russian crowd, and singlehandedly won the Cold War.
However, believe it or not, my clever Rocky IV analogy is NOT why the new album is called Moscow Penny Ante. True to form, Dead To Me have drawn from their idiosyncratic bag of influences and repurposed Malcolm X's term for the small time hoods, or "penny ante thugs" and self-deprecatingly applied it to their own unique take on making music, noting that their "penny ante punk" has recently taken the band all the way to Moscow on tour, where they presumably didn't have to explain all the Cyrillic text that litter the designs on their t-shirts and hoodies. It's a bit of false modesty, as one listen to Moscow Penny Ante clearly reveals four guys brimming with technical skill, confidence and passion for what they do. Dead To Me may not be selling out large theaters all over the world, but they're sure as hell pummeling their own take on modern aggressive music and rocking a style that can't be easily pinned down or copied. The classic Dead To Me themes of brutal introspection and revolted frustration-with-the-shitty-world-we're-stuck-in are still the bread and butter of Moscow Penny Ante's lyrical content, and the band has never sounded more sincere or pissed.
Fresh off a huge US tour with Off With Their Heads and Riverboat Gamblers, Dead To Me's latest incarnation is well oiled and ready to kick ass worldwide this fall on behalf of Moscow Penny Ante. Expect dates with Banner Pilot and stops at CMJ and the Fest in Gainesville, just for starters. For now, just sit back and listen to the hardest edge of the most dynamic band currently evolving in the underground today. Go see them live when they come to your town and watch Chicken piss off half the crowd with his irreverent wit, then win them back with his wide-legged stance and bass mastery. Watch Ken and Sam shred like they've been doing it together for fifteen years. And for fuck's sake, check out the drummer. God, he's handsome.