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Dead Next Door (Saturday, June 25th, 2005, The Dublin Castle, Camden, London, UK)

Dead Next Door at The Dublin Castle, London - Photo by David de Young (click for full version)

By David de Young

The music pub The Dublin Castle is a short jaunt from the Camden Town tube stop in North London. I picked the club to visit on this night because I had never been there, but my nose must have steered me correctly as I had even more fun than I did at The Barfly on a similar reconnaissance mission last summer. The club is well known in these parts, and appears to be on the same circuit as clubs like 93 Feet East, The Windmill, and Islington Academy for emerging local acts. And according to a news article posted on the premises the pub has played host to bands such as Blur and Madness during their formative years.

On Saturday night, the first band on the bill, Motel Hero put on a respectable show. But their performance didn't seem to have much more energy than their sound check. The second band, The Cuban Heels, was more up to snuff -- tight, and they had their chops down, but at least for me they were lacking a needed ingredient to generate real excitement. Headliners Luxemborg, the band I actually had gone to see based on a description of "noir pop" by Time Out) were quite good at what they did -- (I’d describe them as charismatic and slightly weird new wave -- their keyboard player wore a white hoody.) No complaints there, and they are better than the Killers.

It was the second to last band Dead Next Door that really pumped me up.

I'd met Dead Next Door's drummer Gav (Gavin Ransley) outside before the gig. Gav introduced me to Rob the bass player, and I was glad to actually have people to talk to for a change. In London, I feel very much like a scenester from a different scene (to coin a phrase vaguely reminding me of the title of a favorite Robert Heinlen novel); and that's both refreshing and awkward. Refreshing because I enjoy the freedom of being completely unrecognized; awkward, because it can be taxing to keep yourself occupied between bands without conversation. (One of several reasons I chain smoke in Europe.)

Ed's hair is not on fire. It's just a lucky trick of the light.

Dead Next Door's set started about half past ten. It only took me about 15 seconds to A) realize I was enjoying the band very much, and B) pick the mix of influences I felt I was hearing. From the first song "Sense of Place," these influences were equal parts U2, The Clash and Interpol. From the second song "Metro" (which is featured on the band's debut EP) I added Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen, and anyone who knows my personal tastes knows happens to me when these forces collide. Add the heavy hitting, straight on rock drumming of Gav and you have a no nonsense, Molotov cocktail of a band.

Gav described Dead Next Door as "aggressive rock," even going so far as to think he'd coined the phrase "aggro-rock" and wondered if they could bill themselves as "the world's first aggro rock outfit." (Sorry, Gav, but a Google search on "aggro-rock" yields over 6,000 results currently.) But he does have a point about the rhythm section. There is a melodic pop element omnipresent in Dead Next Door's songs, and the guitars are known to ring sweetly on occasion. But the songs never get derailed by sentiment. The drums and bass always push forward, never reaching a frenzy, but never allowing you to forget that first and foremost this is a rock band. (I'm guessing that Dead Next Door are named after the 1988 horror movie of the same name, which though I've never seen it, IMDB tells me the tagline is "How do you kill something that won't die?")

Ed the guitar player plays with his guitar so low to the ground you'd swear it weighed 300 pounds. And fronting the goup is Andreas, whose vocals are on the Bruce Springsteen side of Kelly Jones. (This is a compliment whether or not you like the Stereophonics.) Andreas is a frontman not afraid to tap into the charisma of Jim Morrison.

One set highlight was "Twenty Seven" (again a song from their EP.) The band's most popular song, requests for it had been being shouted out since near the start of the set. When played the sizable crowd -- the largest crowd for any of the four bands on this bill -- went crazy.

Clearly seeing my enjoyment as I danced in the front row shooting photographs, a man leaned in and said, "This band is going to be huge!" Never mind that I found out later it was Gav's brother. Enthusiam like that is contagious, and it just goes to show you that another of the greatest assets a band can have is its fans.

David de Young is editor[at]howwastheshow.com