As Dead Meadow celebrate 20 years of frying minds across the world Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman experiences a band at the top of their game.
There’s a line in 80s western Pale Rider where Clint Eastwood’s mysterious preacher character says: “There’s plain few problems can’t be solved with a little sweat and hard work.” It’s a maxim that has been taken to heart by the young Liverpool band who’ve taken their name from the same film.
Always willing to lend support to bigger names or strike out on their own, their incessant gigging has begun to pay off with Pale Rider becoming a true psychedelic force over the last year. Although his in between song banter could do with some work, vocalist Ben Russell is a mesmerising star sailor of a front man but key to the sound is permanently be-hatted guitarist Fran Codman whose fret-ruining soundscapes recall Nick McCabe’s work with Verve (not The Verve).
Drummer Sophie Thompson even manages to shrug off a collapsing kit to provide the percussive crashes especially on superb new song Django which barrels along to her beat.
While their reputation for sludgy stoner rock might not suggest it, hard work has underpinned Dead Meadow’s 20 year career which has seen the Washington DC band at the vanguard of the neo-psych scene along with fellow veterans like Brian Jonestown Massacre.
The band’s wonderful marriage of Tony Immoi riffs, dreamy layers of guitar-fuzz bliss, and singer Jason Simon’s high-pitched vocals has seen them travel a singular road for the past two decades, self-recording and producing such epics as 2013’s double-album-length Warble Womb.
What really shocks when confronted by the Dead Meadow live experience is just how three players produce such a huge noise. Simon’s waves of distorted guitar riffs are the intoxicating main draw but equally astonishing is returning skinsman Mark Laughlin’s extraordinary drumming which propels songs like Keep Your Head and This Shaky Hand Is Not Mine to dizzying new heights.
While elements of folk and pop have drifted into their sound over the years, live the band remain the sludge driven kings of drone that first piqued the UK’s ears with the still incredible-sounding session they recorded for John Peel back in 2001.
Fittingly given their surroundings the set builds and builds to a gleeful stab at The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows which certainly goes some way to fulfilling John Lennon’s wish to sound “like a group of Tibetan monks chanting on a mountain top.”
20 years on Dead Meadow remain one one of the finest, most singular bands on the planet. As the great man said: “lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void…”
Images by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody