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16 January 2012

Dead at Twenty Four - 'Blast Off Motherfucker!' (Ride the Snake)

Here's another long-lost artist, reissued to enhance the world with what would have otherwise remained in total obscurity.  In the case of Dead at 24, the obscurity was a self-released cassette from the mid/late 90s, which is now probably only found in cardboard boxes located in dusty Pittsburgh closets.  Boston label Ride the Snake did a loving vinyl reissue of Blast Off Motherfucker!, in the process doing a bit of historical preservation of a chaotic rock band which feels strangely contemporary now, particularly in the age of Psychedelic Horseshit and bands like that.  Dead at 24 was centered around two songwriters, Alan Lewandowski and Ernie Bullard, and featured Steve Boyle on electronics, synths and other noises.  Boyle (who wrote the liner notes) is more of an Allan Ravenstein than an Eno-in-Roxy type, particularly with the heavy heavy Pere Ubu influence on this band.  But it's only in a few places that we really hear him let it rip (such as the brilliant 'Ladders to Fire'); otherwise his presence is mostly felt, some texture that maybe is just lost in the analog hiss.  The band lumbers between confident indie-style rock dirges and the psyched-out fuckery of tracks like '(Feels Like) Oedipus Wrecks'.  Lewandowski, who later employed a wicked-good country-folk direction in a band called the Working Poor (whose complete discography vinyl box set will be released in 2016 on Underbite Records), is the damaged poet laureate of Pittsburgh's grimy subcultures.  His lyrics range from experiential glossolalia to unrepentant negative romanticism, with the gleam of a marquee moon in his eyes.  Bullard's tunes, however, are somewhat more stream-of-consciousness and with some interlocking guitar wizardry - the tracks that feel more cohesively "band".  Drummer Sheryl Johnston glues it together with a tom-heavy monotony that pummels over any of the more lyrical subtlety.   A band out of time, for sure - their influences clearly harken back to the late 70s and early 80s, and their ramshackle give-and-take would situate them nicely now, but in the math- and post-rock infused Pittsburgh of 1997, there just wasn't anyone listening.

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