Whenever I think about Dead Poetic, I think of 9/11. Not because they have any links to terrorism (that I know of); it’s the date that I saw them live in 2014 and from that day forth this date has thankfully held much more positive memories for me. It was a particularly great show because I was able to connect not only mentally with the superb performance but got physically involved as well.
‘New Medicines’, released a few months before the show, took Dead Poetic to another level after a promising, but not too memorable, debut full-length ‘Four Wall Blackmail’. I’d been listening to it on repeat, hooked in by the up-tempo rhythms, driving chords and insanely good vocals. I’d listened enough to know every word and as I stood there watching the band play the songs live in the basement of Rock City, I belted out each line along with them. If you were a fly on the wall you’d have seen that I was the only one in the crowd doing this, the other patrons appearing somewhat subdued alongside me, and it hadn’t escaped the attention of front-man Brandon Rike either. After a few songs, he leaned into the crowd and reached his hand out to me – which of course I grabbed – pulling me through the crowd to the front of the barrier. As the band performed ‘Molotov’, he shared the microphone with me, encouraging me to sing along with him.
After that, it became more of a personal show – I’d blocked out anyone else from the room – and I haven’t had many more intimate gig experiences like this since. The passion and energy flowing from the band was something you don’t get from every performance and I think this really sums up what Dead Poetic was all about. It’s the ingredient that makes their version of a tried and tested formula the most potent of all other bands in their peer group.
Because on the face of it, Dead Poetic weren’t doing anything particularly inspiring or different to other bands at the time. The guitars play some nicely selected chords but they’re fairly straight-forward, the drums are pulsating and driving but stay safely within their comfort zone and the vocals flick from soaring melody to the occasional screamed passage – a formula well used in the mid 2000s. Somehow though, Dead Poetic did it better than everyone else on ‘New Medicines’. It’s certainly true that Brandon Rike had a voice much stronger than most other bands in the genre at the time, but it wasn’t just his vocals alone that made the difference. The band captured the enthusiasm and passion that came across in that memorable live show on the record; you could just tell by listening to it that they’d be excellent live because there are no frills or tricks to it: they’re just doing what comes naturally to them and it works wonders.
It’s difficult to explain how a band that plays pretty much the same style as various other bands can make themselves stand out without really doing anything different, but again I have to turn to food to try and explain it. Fish and chips can be a delightful thing, but they aren’t exactly the height of culinary experiences. The component parts of potatoes, batter, fish and oil stay pretty consistent between any establishment but even though there’s a known formula to it, the range of results is pretty vast. We’ve all known bad ones and we ignore them in the future, but when you find the right chip shop, there’s little better than the comfort and taste of some fine fish and chips. But: they’re still just fish and chips. No matter how good the best ones are, they’re still just potatoes, batter, fish and oil, but knowing that doesn’t make you love them any less. There might be fine dining restaurants on the same street that offer something more creative and exotic, but sometimes the comfort of the familiar is just what you need.
Dead Poetic don’t do anything complicated and they didn’t push the boundaries of their genre, but when you’re in the mood for something comforting on your palette, they’re one of the best outlets you can turn to. ‘New Medicines’ is a fantastic record that you should definitely try out if you’ve never heard it before. Enjoy Mike’s cover of ‘Taste the Red Hands’ and indulge in something homely. Enjoy!