The Deadline Shakes are a Glasgow based sextet whose debut album Zealots is released on Flowers In The Dustbin records on 29 November. Quite simply, it’s an album that you want, no, have to hear.
The band describe themselves as “Rock, pop and maybe some folk. It rolls and sometimes it bites” yet that only seems to scratch the surface of what’s going on here. At times, you get flavours of R.E.M in their supreme Life’s Rich Pageant guitar pop guise, at others Arcade Fire and at times a combination of Roxy Music like glam rock with Abba on vocals. It’s a remarkable thing. Opener Bright Spot In A Bad Year a gentle introduction to what is to come – wonderful vocal melodies intersperse with an increasing squall before the song opens out into a song that bounces and fizzes with energy, hooking you in instantly. There is so much going on here yet it is all perfectly managed, creating a sensational opening track. You almost need to pause for breath after it. Shelters brings to mind the jangly indiepop of The Sundays but with more edge and depth, sort of like Radiohead’s Subterranean Homesick Alien but with a significant spring in its step. Add to that the Abbaesque vocal melodies that pop up here and there and you have another winner.
Reading it back, that description sounds frankly bizarre. Like the majority of the songs on this album, the two openers are multi layered, mini epics and describing them isn’t easy. What I can say without a doubt however, is that they are quite brilliant. Slipping From Your Heart is a more straightforward poppy track with synths and violins mixing with the guitars and pianos. Again, the sheer joy of the melodies is the key here – you simply can’t resist them. The short but beautiful When Will I Ever Learn follows, sounding like a lost, gorgeous 70’s ballad, before You Bring The Class increases the pace again, think Arcade Fire having a dust up with Fleetwood Mac but in the best way possible.
The centrepoint of the album, and its definite stand out, Frozen Out is next, a remarkable, epic, beauty of a track. Over around 5 and a half minutes, it builds from a piano and acoustic guitar led ballad to a soaring piece of pop majesty with a chorus that you simply fall in love with. It has to be one of the tracks of the year with additional bonus points for the use of a banjo which, Mumford & Sons nonsense aside, is always welcome. What A Tune. Take the best bits of every track you’ve ever loved, put them together and you’ll get Frozen Out. The short Oh How! comes next, nicely placed in the album to allow you to digest Frozen Out, before the mandolin featuring, REM do Talking Heads in a psych pop bar of Sweeten The Deal arrives like a huge ray of summer sunshine with a chorus that makes you want to dance wherever you are.
Throughout the album, you get echoes of 70’s pop be it glam rock or the likes of Paul McCartney’s early adventures with Wings. I appreciate that may not be the most modern reference point, however The Deadline Shakes do not shy away from sounding huge and poppy so that era’s approach to that type of sound is an obvious touchstone. Phonecalls In The Bath, for example, mixes that type of sound with an alt country feel and pulls it off majestically, and You’re Coming With Me, like the earlier When Will I Ever Learn is a short piano ballad that sounds as if you’ve heard it before and already fallen in love with it many times. The glam rock pop of A Little Waiting While and Don’t You Be Too Cool follow and are as much fun as you can have in three and half minutes with even the latter title sounding like the best glam rock album name never used before the album ends with the magnificent, frankly, epic Boy which is a perfect conclusion to this most thrilling of debut albums.
Zealots is basically one of the best albums you’ll hear this year. That it’s made by a band from my hometown makes it all the more pleasing as it’s yet more evidence of the remarkable Glaswegian music scene. The most impressive aspect of all this however is the fact that it’s The Deadline Shakes debut album. If this is just the start, the rest of the story is not to be missed.