Posted by Aphra Magazine on 3/5/15.
The Dead Ships EP 1 is loaded with garage rock and bluesy goodness that will have you surfing to the wave of its beat. Vocalist and guitarist Devlin McCluskey, drummer Christopher Spindelilus and bassist Alex Moore were aided in the making of EP 1 by producer Brendan Tanning (Broken Social Scene), who saw them play live in Toronto and wanted to fine-tune their record so that it beamed with the same vibrant energy as projected in their live concerts. All together, they have created a gem that does just that.
‘Big Quiet’ was the first song McCluskey wrote, and it inspired the creation of the other songs on EP 1. It reverberates with heartache and loss, as McCluskey struggles to wrap his head around his best friend’s suicide. The name of the song originates from McCluskey’s recollection of an article he read after he came home from his best friend’s funeral; it contained the discovery of a rare solar phenomena called a ‘big quiet’, and at that moment he felt as though his entire environment was stuck in this strange standstill. McCluskey’s inability to navigate the darkness of his best friend’s absence is captured as he sings, ‘Whatever swallowed you. Don’t get lost in the sound’. He doesn’t hide from the difficulty of coming to terms with it and yearns to bring him back to life somehow: ‘If things get too loud, and you’re over it. You can come back to life, and return to the big quiet’. However, in contrast are Spindelilus’ upbeat guitar playing and Moore’s drumming beat both of which uplift McCluskey’s somber vocals and radiate a brighter sentiment.
‘Canyon’ is the EP’s first single and its most prominent song. The track begins with Spindelilus’ soaring guitar solo, which is then deepened by Moore’s thumping beat. When McCluskey enters the song immediately becomes more upbeat with a cruising vibe. Here he seems to be exploring the boundaries between familiar and unfamiliar realms, reminiscing about his moments in the ‘wild side’ and how ‘that was just the first itch’, but he is ‘still looking for the scratch they talked about’. The canyons appear to draw him into their forbidden territory, although he cannot fully grasp the mechanics of what they contain inside. McCluskey addresses the meaning behind ‘Canyon’, stating, ‘As ego-stroking as reflection is, there’s really nothing like getting smacked by a moment and doing dumb shit. I guess ‘Canyon’ is about how even in the most suffocating cities, you can find free moments and places…. That, and also sex in cars’. As he looks for a purpose in this world ‘Canyon’ illustrates McCluskey’s self-exploration.
The Dead Ships have been compared to bands such as The Black Keys and The Strokes, and the rest of their songs on EP 1 certainly give a nod to these bands. ‘Floorboards’ has Spindelilus rocking it out on his guitar and Moore working the drums, along with McCluskey’s soaring vocals which act to amp up the edgy rock vibe of the song. ‘Citycide’ starts off with a catchy drum beat, but is then softened by McCluskey’s smooth and flowing vocals and Spindelilus’ dreamy and easygoing playing that seeps into the background. McCluskey’s struggle to find closure in his best friend’s death is accentuated in this song, and his helplessness reaches out to his listeners.
Spindelilus effectively delivers ‘Seance’ with the delicate precision of his guitar playing. The track aches with sadness, as McCluskey’s beautifully pained vocals begin to tell the story of death’s relentless grasp on its victims. ‘Tomorrow’s Crashes’ showcases Moore’s energetic drumming prowess, but McCluskey then wades in with the darkness of his loss and one of his most powerful lyrical performances. ‘Your morning after corpse face looks like, the blue in hungover skies, with sunglass shakes and cumulous eyes,’ he sings.
EP 1 is a beautiful album that will draw you in with its garage rock authenticity and catchy pop sensibilities. You will constantly find yourself riding the wave of McCluskey’s highs and lows and admiring Spindelilus and Moore’s brilliant compositions. All three are a force to be reckoned with and have produced a work of art that emanates directly from the heart.
The Dead Ships – EP 1 is out May 5