Deadcuts – Vains/Nine Black Alps – Novokaine (Speedowax)

At some point in 2014 I decided to google Senseless Things to find out what my favourite bunch of ragamuffins had been up to. Quite a lot, it seemed, since I’d lost touch with their music around 1996. Happily, they were all alive – just.

My playful monkeys/Monkees were gone but then we’d all grown up. Instead there were pictures of a short-haired Mark Keds smiling smugly in front of an underwear model (but I guess I’d be doing the same in front of a male one), lots of poetry on Youtube and Deadcuts.

Initially formed from the almost spiritual partnership of Keds and Jerome Alexandre (ex-Skuzzies),Deadcuts have evolved over the last two years, embracing musical change and a desire to constantly push themselves. In the last year Cass Browne had been added to the line-up. This has further enhanced the chemistry in the band as Keds not only has his soulmate Alexandre to spark off but his old best mate, too.

Keds’s musical signature is all over ‘Vains’ and his songwriting still lures and captivates. The lyrics strike darker chords and plumb deeper than before, inevitably given his experiences over the last twenty years, ‘Hate can murder my day/Hate can murder my soul.’ There’s a real sense of unity between the vocals and the music on this track. Alexandre’s guitar is the gritty magic, like black glitter, a mixture of disquieting effects and foreboding. Browne’s drumming is insistent, reliable and confident. There is something darkly Victorian about Deadcuts. It’s like they are living in Engels’s London where it never gets light and the alleys have something sinister lurking in them.

On the reverse is ‘Novokaine’ by Nine Black Alps from Manchester, the self-proclaimed capital of the north and another city of post-Industrial grime and squalor. This track is taken from their last album Candy For The Clowns and complements ‘Vains’ nicely.

Sam Forrest’s vocal is initially reminiscent of Richard Butler before it settles into a far louder and more powerful delivery. His voice is an equal match for the wall of buzzing guitars. By halfway, his raw-throated singing imparts similar messages of how we ‘live with disappointment’.

Superficially ‘Novokaine’ sounds like it should be a drug song. But there are no whispers of depravity or vulnerability. In fact, even the shouts of dependency are heavy and physical, the call for narcotics sounding like someone yelling across a sawmill. At times, it sounds as if there are six guitars playing all at once, quite an achievement for a four-piece.

Another literate band, their name is taken from a Sylvia Plath poem, but Nine Black Alps are by no means delicate, on this track at least. They are powerful and, one would imagine, a forceful live band. Whilst their music and lyrics might not be subtle, ‘Novokaine’ will be appealing to precisely those people who like songs where everything is unleashed.

There’s definitely something to be said for split seven inches when the synergy works like this.