The Artists Organization (TAO)
By Ellen Eldridge
From the start of the warping and undulating tones of the guitars, it would be easy to instantly feel lost. For fans who expected some semblance of similarity from the debut Wrecking Ball, prepare to take a turn through the jungle of sound and emotion brought on by Dead Confederate. The sophomore release Sugar doesn’t disappoint, but it does take getting used to if listeners anticipate that harsh Southern bite found in tracks like “The Rat” and “Start Me Laughing.” Tracks like the drawn out yet incredibly inspiring and poetic “Flesh Colored Canvas” are missing from Sugar as well. The longest song on the album is the single, “Giving It All Away,” at four minutes and 50 seconds and includes a guest appearance by J. Mascis. An aching sentiment still exists in driven and introspective lyrics written by frontman Hardy Morris and bassist Brantley Senn, but the music exchanges the telltale slide guitar and whining tone for a more pop albeit cinematic atmosphere.
Dead Confederate does itself justice by tumbling head first into a distinct new style. The fact that the guys purposefully sought to shed stereotypes and create something true to themselves shines through. Songs like “By Design” capture chord progressions which recall OK Computer by Radiohead. The juxtaposition of lyrics lamenting the design of life’s uglier side; stale breath the result of formulaic consumption demands. An interesting aside stands in the fact that Dead Confederate recorded Sugar during a record-setting New Jersey blizzard. The influence of John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinasaur Jr.) does not go unnoticed with tracks varying in intricacy and electronic waves of thrashing pop. The best part of Sugar lies in the resounding affirmation that anyone who tried to label Dead Confederate as a grungy wanna-be Southern rock band has been proven wrong. These guys hold close their songwriting skill while adding new layers to music affluence.