What was it that was being said just a few years back? That guitar groups were on their way out? That rock is dead? Yep. Long live rock! And, too, long live jangle-pop, that trebly sub-genre of rock ’n’ roll that traces its lineage to the 12 strings of Roger McGuinn’s Rickenbacker that ring throughout the Byrds’ 1965 single, “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Through the decades, it’s gone in and out of style (as all sub-genres do), becoming hip again in the mid-1980s thanks to R.E.M., the Smiths, Felt and a slew of other post-punk “college rock” bands, such as Rain Parade, and again in the early ‘90s, when American radio found out about the Gin Blossoms.
That’s an imperfect history, of course, but for the purposes of this piece, it should do. Guitars, guitars and more guitars—that, in part, sums up the charms of Dead Meat, the full-length debut of The Tubs, a London-based Welsh rock band. Think the Jam crossed with the Gin Blossoms, with dashes of the Lemonheads and Richard Thompson mixed in for good measure. For folks of a certain age, the retro sound should be welcomed, while those unfamiliar with “jangle pop” per se will be won over, anyway, by the upbeat melodies and dark lyrics.
The nine-song, 26-minute set kicks off with “Illusion Pt. 2,” in which singer Owen Williams admits, “I can’t believe I’m in love with you again/over and over it goes/it never ends” before asking whether the feelings on the other side “were just an illusion.” “Two Person Love” delves into the realm of erotomania, in which one deludes themselves into believing that another is in love with them; it’s what drives many stalkers. If “I Don’t Know How It Works,” the third track, sounds familiar, that’s due to it having been released as a single in early 2020. Along with a few other songs, it glistens in part due to the supporting vocals provided by former Joanna Gruesome singer Lan McArdle.
In addition to Williams, the band proper features guitarist George Nicholls; they’re were in the Joanna Gruesome group together and founded The Tubs in 2019. Joining them are Steve Stonholdt on guitar, Max Warren on bass, and Matthew Green on drums. On the title track, they crank up the volume as Williams lays out all that’s wrong in a friend’s life before offering, “you can blame it all on me” and observing “you were dead before I met you”; it’s a sly kiss-off that would have been at home on Richard Thompson’s venomous Across a Crowded Room album. Inspired in part by the singer in a former band of Williams, “Sniveller,” another track with McArdle on backing vocals, would also fit on that same Thompson album; it posits how love can turn anyone into a servant.
The ringing guitars of “Duped” are worth the price of admission alone, while Williams’ lament of “I cannot take it anymore” regarding a lover who’s clearly bored with him sets the stage for the track that follows, “That’s Fine,” which is another lament about the pains of love. The manic “Round the Bend” finds Williams worrying about his mental health: i“I think I’m losing my mind for good this time.” The album closes with the jaunty “Wretched Lie,” about a fib that haunts Williams: “You are always on my mind,” he sings, “for I have told a wretched lie.”
Which is all to say: Dead Meat is well worth a few dozen listens (if not more). Give it a spin.