2022 has been, in my opinion, one of the best years for new music since the turn of the century. Especially the last few months, I feel like I keep coming across a new album that just blows me away and I put it on every chance I get. No more NPR and podcasts on the drive across town, too much excellent new music. I’m overwhelmed by it at the moment. I’m a busy man, I have a family. I don’t have time for it. You can imagine my annoyance when I was tasked with reviewing this new Dead End Drive In, put it on, and it just absolutely fucking rips end to end. Goddamn it.
I’m embarrassed to write this review because I like this album so much. It will require some restraint on my part to not make it read like a bad puff piece. I swear I don’t know anyone in this band, nor do I owe them any favors. I keep listening to it trying to find something critical to say that doesn’t make me sound like an idiot, but whatever, I can’t. It’s great. Let me get this over with and tell you why I think so.
The only thing I know about Dead End Drive In lies within the descriptor on their Bandcamp page, which reads as follows: “Punk band from Vancouver, BC. You know. That one with three guitar players. Gotta shred with existential dread.” This last line describes their sound appropriately. It appears to be their second full length, having also released a CD/digital album in 2018, and an EP in 2016. They don’t seem to have a presence on Discogs, which suggests they’re still a fairly humble outfit. However, their name is also comprised of a bunch of words from other band names, so it’s possible I just overlooked it. Their level of notoriety will change drastically if this record gets into enough ears out there.
The opening track has a sort of Frontier Trust sounding cowpunk vibe to it, and clocks in at 6:23. Pretty fucking bold for a punk band you’ve never heard of. It didn’t catch me first time around, but as I became more familiar with the rest of the album, I’ve really come around to liking it. Just don’t give up on these guys if you aren’t blown away halfway through track one. It isn’t called “A Worthwhile Endeavor” because it’s a waste of your time. All these songs, many of which double or triple in length from your standard punk fare, are all part of a larger thing. I hate to use the term “concept album”, but this product is best consumed whole. Fast forwarding through the seemingly unremarkable parts would detract from your overall appreciation of the whole thing. Stick with it and you will be rewarded.
By track two things start to open up a little into more of a straightforward punk sound, but there are just so many cool parts, leads, and instrumentation to each song that it’s somewhat misleading to suggest it’s anything less than pleasantly surprising. Overall, I would say they sound like if Jon Kastner (Doughboys) and Tad Kuebler (The Hold Steady) were in Teenage Halloween. I also hear some Darius Koski Swingin Utters. I even have D. Boon written down in my notes here. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I stand by this reference. This band can really play their instruments, and the more complicated parts positively contribute to the composition rather than coming across as cumbersome and indulgent. The quality of songwriting is just stellar.
It’s hard to pick favorite songs on complete records like this one, but if pressed I’d say I prefer the back half of the album. Namely, “Dying Breed”, “Before I Start Noticing”, and “God Forbid You Go off Script”. Nothing on here sounds redundant, and even at 10 tracks in 45 minutes it doesn’t feel overly long. On a couple of occasions I’ve even restarted it from the beginning and listened to it twice all the way through.
I know people can get lazy buying new music for themselves around the holidays, but don’t sleep on this one. Who cares if it disrupts your album of the year rankings that only 12 people will read? It’s going to disrupt mine, and I’m grateful for it. I need a physical copy of this one, in case any of you haven’t got me a Christmas present yet.