There are many perils for young bands on their sophomore outings. Usually the songs that have been reworked and trialed on tour have been perfected and then placed on the debut record. Often this leaves few songs remaining for the follow up release. Inevitably for many bands the dreaded “curse of the second album” occurs, which has stymied and ended the careers of many a band and performer. The band Dexters not only seems to have avoided that pitfall but on their Sept 25th release “We Paid For Blood” they display development, growth and an even better second effort. On “We Paid for Blood” Dexters offer refreshing modern swagger and youthful antics all the while thoroughly enjoying their musical journey.
Dexters hails from the gritty streets of Hoxton in London’s fabled Eastend. The band is comprised of Tom Rowlett on vocals, Ben Debo on guitar, Jamie Harris on bass and Chris Mardon on drums. The members of the band all grew up together and formed the band in 2011. They opened for the Kaiser Chiefs in 2014 and continued to gig non stop throughout the year. That same year they released their debut album “Shimmer Gold”. The album had four released singles, “The Hard Way, Recover, Start to Run and the title track Shimmer Gold.” They garnered a lot of fans and critic raves along the way.
The band according to Rowlett was named for a bouncer in a London club who had thrown him out after some rowdiness. Rowlett promised to name the band after the bouncer if he left him back in the club. The bouncer left him back in and Rowlett kept his promise. He just isn’t sure the bouncer actually knows. That is one of the many stories the band has on hand for the telling each one more interesting than the next. They are a footie loving quartet without airs and graces, who work hard and can not endure bullshit attitudes. Rowlett has said, “We leave everything on stage, we treat every gig like it is the most important gig of our lives, and that makes for some amazing nights.” The band says their biggest influences growing up were the Kinks and their growing up in the rough Eastend which provides endless fodder for stories and songs. The band takes that neighborhood energy and channels it into the studio.
The band recorded “We Paid for Blood” in the legendary Rockfield Studio in Wales, with producer Nick Brine at the helm. Brine has worked with The Stone Roses, Oasis, Bruce Springsteen and the Verve among others. On the subject of songwriting Rowlett says,”We write songs that speak to people; we aren’t trying to ram our views down peoples’ throats we’d rather write songs people connect with.” Dexters has been likened to bands such as, The Strokes, The Libertines, and the Kaiser Chiefs. Their sound is certainly at times guitar anathematic writ large.
I really liked Dexters’ debut. Upon hearing the announcement of the latest release I feared it would be a let down, a formulated faint facsimile of the first record. I was pleasantly relieved by how refreshing “We Paid for Blood” sounds; shame on me for doubting the band. “We Paid for Blood” starts out with “Intro”, which is pretty straightforward, it is a full on snippet of horns and feedback, think Beck in his loud moments. “Intro” does exactly what it needs to by acting as a great bridge from “Shimmer Gold” into the album. “The Wolves” jumps in with a bass heavy rock out intro. It is a straightforward guitar attack. It also utilizes The Pixies “quiet loud quiet” technique as a definite guide post. It displays the ultimate “What you see is what you get” approach to music which builds and builds energy to the last climatic jam out moment. The topic of the song addresses the various available vices found on the road touring and equating them to wolves that attempt to hunt and take down the individual.
One of the prerelease singles is, “Stay Strange” which contains driving percussion with a wavering screaming guitar. That combo explodes into an interstellar sound that is both assured and assertive. The song speaks to the difficulty of the band to stay true to themselves, “We are becoming what we hated… have we given up? … Come on stay strange.” This is another energy filled track that will drive you to dance around the room.
The other prerelease single is “Suburban Sex Dungeon” a punk inspired 2 minutes and 28 seconds of instant gratification. There is no hiding what this song is about and is timely considering the news that is filling the UK papers with the PM’s possible deviant sexual goings on. The song deals with the perversions going on behind the lace curtains of suburbia; with lawyers, duchesses and teachers all are heading to the dungeon to even out their particular kinks. The song has a tremendous Sonic Youth vibe.
Up until this point the album has been running on some kind of “Red Bull” energy drink. The tempo slows down for “Your Lovely Wife” which is a knees up about spousal abuse and the abused finally taking things into her own hands. “Never again will she have to lie about those mysterious bruises … she slipped it into the mac and cheese, your absolutely clueless.” The song is a macabre joy as it delivers a Smiths like chorus of “Oh your lovely wife, swallow the cyanide.”
“These Nights Were Made for Us” is a fast paced love song. Droning intro guitars lead into a wonky guitar riff. The song is about the need to get through the day to get to the nights that are the reward. It is a great toe tapper. The song “Borderline” is probably the song that is the most reminiscence of “Shimmer Gold” with the Dexters trademark guitar and rhythm signature. The track shapeshifts as it displays a Britpop feel sonically; delivering bounce, energy and catchiness.
The title track, “We Paid for Blood” is a slower track that starts out with a kind of monologue and looks to go one way and then at mid track explodes into something completely different. Again you can hear the influence of The Smiths and The Kinks in the track. It is very dramatic and grows on you with additional listens. It speaks of the everyday person who always works hard and never receives the rewards they deserve. The title refers to those who never lift a finger but are quick to criticize, “They are always watching … sharpening the knives waiting for you to slip up.”
The cacophonous intro to “Heaven” switches over to chiming guitars and emits sounds akin to Echo and the Bunnymen without being derivative. The message is to get the most out of life,”lets make a new heaven …how to see and feel it all… making our own heaven. “Her Disappearing Act” is the most ballad like song on the album. The song talks about a girl who pulls a disappearing act every time love and commitment are mentioned. The lyrics are really engaging; “as soon as love you feel, she goes and disappears … where she goes you never know.”
Again pulling no punches lyrically or musically, “Braggart’s Regatta” is a song that confronts people who spout off without a clue what they are talking about; “if you say your heart is in the right place does that mean it is alright for you to say what ever you want.” In some places in the song it sounds like Rowlett is attempting to exercise the stupidity out of these types of people with a primal scream approach. It is also the song that gets the most political in the entire album.
The final song, “You Deserve the World” has a shimmering intro that builds into a rock guitar fest. It speaks to people the band wants to thank and also thanks said role models for doing the right thing. “You deserve the world, but this world does not deserve you.” It does take the song a little time to get going, but when it does there is a great payoff, it has a really noteworthy outré.
Dexters has avoided many of the pitfalls young bands succumb to so often on a second release. They accomplish this by staying true to their roots and writing solid songs as they progress from their debut. They attract the listener with straightforward guitar rock and great story telling skills. You can envision how exciting many of these songs have to be live and the band certainly has great delivery. It will be interesting to see the reception to ‘We Paid for Blood”, it deserves all the attention the band can get. There is no disappointment for established enthusiasts and plenty to attract even more new fans, well done.