Like their career so far Dead Confederate’s music is a slow burning affair. On new album and third overall, In the Marrow, the band ditch some of the immediacy they found on the previous album – Sugar – for some more of the grunge meets Pink Floyd smouldering jams they favoured on Wrecking Ball. Hardy Morris’ languid yowl takes the initiative, such as it is, as slide guitar and pedal steel loop in autumnal decay with drums that do just enough to move these molten songs along.
In the Marrow is another enjoyable record but not necessarily the great one I might have envisaged back in 2008 when they first played in the UK with the Black Angels just before their debut album Wrecking Ball emerged. Back then they were spiky, sloppy and endearingly uninterested whereas the follow-up Sugar suggested a proper tilt at success.
That all sounds disappointing, like a missed opportunity or something but it isn’t really. Clearly, Dead Confederate regrouped – lost a member, recorded some Neil Young covers, self-released an EP and played lots of gigs – and returned. They come across like that friend everyone has – who is happy with the quiet life when everyone is scratching their heads at the lack of supposed ‘progress’ in their life. The band knows what they do best.
That’s not to say that In the Marrow is some free wheelin’ weed and beer dude rock as the mulchy opener Slow Poisons demonstrates. Flitting around a sketched out structure it is a melancholic dirge. The ragged psych of Vacations follows and pulls at that thread of doubt: “acting like nothing’s wrong/sooner or later it all dissolves… I’ve been to school; I’ve been to church now I’m seeing what that’s worth.” Morris and bassist Brantley Senn continue to share song-writing duties composing separately but coalescing into one coherent outpouring (out-drizzling, perhaps?).
Dead Confederate stretch out their flesh coloured canvas one more time for the title-track and it is, by now, their sonic signature: long haunting guitar sounds and gloopy mid-tempo drum hits. Overall, In the Marrow is alt. rock by way of Southern disharmony Morris having shed some of the more obviously indebted Nirvana throat shredding angst and reined in the lengths of the tracks. Shorter they may be but tracks like awkwardly titled Best of the Worst and Big City Life are hardly hook laden powerpop. The closest number to a radio song is probably Dead Poetry with its Pixies indebted jaggedy guitar line and slow dance rhythm. Maybe that radio play would come on a college radio station but that’s what we’re dealing with.
Where Wrecking Ball rocked and Sugar occasionally raged In the Marrow feels more crafted in its approach. It’s retro, heartfelt and tangible feeling but there’s also a nagging feeling of doubt there too. The second act of their career starts here.