Good Grooves: Dead Rider – Mother of Curses

My journey through the Good Grooves of the world takes me to a bizarre place in the heart of the Windy City.

The band in question is Dead Rider — known as D. Rider when this album was released. The album is Mother of Curses.

In an experiment as bizarre as the music I was about to hear, I watched a muted music video of a track off the record. This was at the suggestion of my sadistic friend who informed me that I was in for a treat. This is what I watched (try it with me, watch it without audio).

It was perhaps one of the strangest things I had ever seen. Upon listening to the record, I was in for more of a surprise.

The track is called Touchy, and it features lyrics like: “I can be a cowboy/ When you touch it, touch it.” What was more shocking was what happened when I shut my eyes and simply listened to the music.

Rhythm refused

If this blog series is called Good Grooves, Dead Rider definitely has the “groove” part down.

The rhythm section is what will be remembered after a listen. Dead Rider channels stranger musical acts like Frank Zappa & the Pixies but infuses the broken melody with the latin beats of something like an early Mars Volta record.

In fact this is sort of where the record loses itself.

A perfect example of this disfunction comes in the song “Dear Blocks.” The drums and bass demand light head-bopping, but the guitar and vocal melodies seemingly sound at random. The friction the bi-polar sound means that inevitably the listener can only focus on one of the two elements.

As someone who appreciates solid pop rhythms, I found myself somewhere between “loop the song” and “skip it and never play it again”.

On the track “Welcome Out,” the multi-layered vocals remind the listener of a youthful Kim Deal and Frank Black combination, one that we will sadly never hear again.

The Zappa Influence

With Mother of Curses, close comparisons can be made to the work of Frank Zappa.

Spastic guitar solos in “Body to body (to body)” call to mind Zappa’s “Nanook Rubs it in” from Apostrophe.

There are lots of strange instruments at work. As a Charles Mingus fan, I particularly loved the ode to the baritone sax in “Welcome Out”, but there are so many situations where random instrumentation creeps in to give each track its own life.

Executive production

Probably my favorite element of the album — also the reason that this album was recommended to me — is the production quality. Man, does it sound good.

This is some of the best rhythm tracking I have heard in quite a while. The bass is extra thick and gritty when it needs to be, like Good Lord.

Towards the end of the killer “Dew Claw Don’t Claw” one of the band members, in response to the throbbing bass line, mentions, “give me some more of that.” I agree.

Rhythm plays a key role in the production of every song, from the chattering of a spray can in “Dear Blocks” to the growing presence of thumping kick drum in “The Marksman.”

Identity Crisis

A common fault of any band starting out is that there are too many ideas among members and none of them have been honed. The first works end up sounding like a hodge-podge with little direction.

Every song is SO different that it makes for a “selective” listening experience. People will undoubtedly pick their favorites and leave the rest for dead.

This is not so much a critique of Dead Rider as much as it is a critique of bands in general, but the contrast from song to song deserve mention.

In my last Good Grooves, I discussed what it is like when music all sounds cohesive.

Overall

I would say that Dead Rider has a lot of potential to be a fantastic band once every band member gets on the same track. If the melodies can match the already capable beats of the drums and bass, then the world is in for something special.

Mother of Curses Track List

  • Arranged Marriage To No Toms
  • Dew Claw Don’t Claw
  • Body To Body (To Body)
  • Welcome Out
  • Dear Blocks
  • Touchy
  • The Marksman
  • Misery Whip