I fell off the face of the Earth somewhere in March to move out of my old place and back to Calgary and I’m pleased to announce that I’m finally settled here. Apologies for the lack of content, but I’m back with a vengeance! I’ve actually settled into the title of “musician” as a career (something I’ve always been a little apprehensive about doing for some unknown reason). As a result of this, I’ve scheduled regular updates and content to hopefully establish something of an online presence. At very least I’ll be throwing things into the void of the internet and maybe when aliens look upon the ruins of our civilization years from now I can have a file in an archive in a distant galaxy. The dream!
Anyways, I thought I would look at some real rocking music today. At the end of last year Spotify told me my most listened to genre was “neo-psychedelic”, which is probably true! However I’ve really only talked about electronic-ish stuff so far, so I’d like to return to the electric guitar and the funky bass and the hitting of the drum skins like boom ka boom for this week’s song.
We’re taking a look at the UK based stoner/ rock/ psych-ish band The Dead Pirates, who’s 2016 album Highmare was one of my favorite albums that come out that year. The first song that I was introduced to off of this album was the track “Ugo”, but before I go into it I’d just like to say that the album as a whole is really quite spectacular. There’s nothing more satisfying than listening to an album that feels like it’s taking you on a journey, and Highmare is a fuzzy, dreamy cart ride through a fairground haunted house. It’s only heightened by the amazing Fleischer inspired artwork of it’s frontman Mc bess, which can also be seen in it’s wonderful animated form in the music video for “Ugo” (posted below, as always).
The first thing that really strikes me in “Ugo” is the wonderful and spooky guitar tones. Throughout the album the clean guitars especially have a wobbly, paranormal feel to them. The use of chorus, vibe and tremolo effects create a sound reminiscent of cheesy horror. That’s not to say that the songs are cheezy, in fact far from it. If anything it serves to strengthen the Fleischer inspired concepts. “Ugo” sounds like it would fit very nicely into a twisted, modern “Merrie Melodies”*, which is essentially the premise to the music video. I love it when a concept is realized on all fronts!
The synth parts in the song are lofty squares and sawtooth waves that sometimes emulate a theremin sound, again contributing to the spookiness (think Minne the Moocher). At certain points during the verse it almost sounds like a ghost going “oooOOOOOOOOOooooo”- much like in those early cartoons. A chorus of spooky folk- ghosts, skeletons and all sorts of ghouls!
I’d like to give special praise to the snare sound in this particular tune, which is simultaneously tight, but also with a nice washy decay. It fills up a lot of space (in a good way!) especially in the early verses. It really compliments the sound of the ride cymbal, which itself is a important pace setter.
Another aspect to be celebrated in “Ugo” is the use of dynamics. The connecting parts (between verses and choruses and vice versa) feel nice and sparse, the verses feel full, but clean- like a dark presence lingering in the shadows waiting to jump out. Jump out they do in the choruses which feel more full and sinister. The most intense dynamic shift is saved for the end of the song, wherein the synth and bass swells and the guitars burst from their clean confines into a delightful stereo fuzz array. If the beginning of the song is being stalked by a dark presence, by the end the presence has the listener firmly in hand- ready to rip their souls out through their ears.
Finally I’d like to talk about the vocals, which are both cheeky and also a little cautionary. In the verses there’s a low mixed backup that mainly stays in the upper range- you can hear it best at the end of lines. Like the synth, it definitely sounds very much like a spooky support. The final words in the song in the last chorus feel good and punchy with lots of character. One of the things I really appreciate about The Dead Pirates is that they don’t shy away from the accent on the lead singer. I love hearing different accents in music! It makes listening to the music so interesting!
Thanks again for tuning in! Hopefully I’ll be on top of writing these on Thursdays- or at very least having a good excuse for missing one or two. It’s going to be a very busy summer for me!
Love Connor HD
*It should be noted that the MC bess also operates the “Dirty Melodies” label, a clever nod once again to Fleischer.
Music Video for Ugo