Dead to Me - Little Brother (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Dead to Me

Little Brother (2008)

Fat Wreck Chords

Growing up an only child, I never had the responsibility of helping raise a little brother. Likewise, I never got to play the role of a little brother, though lately I've felt as such (especially the kind that's "been getting into trouble" as Dead to Me so eloquently imparts in the title track of their latest EP). First, a bout with unemployment left me putzing around Minneapolis in my own state of urban blight for weeks. As autumn set in, I found out the hard way that free parking in uptown is non-existent, charging a $250 towing fee to my MasterCard. So maybe I'm not a little brother in the literal sense, but I can certainly relate to the namesake of Dead to Me's new EP, and perhaps is why it strikes such a chord.

Those who enjoyed Dead to Me's startlingly successful debut Cuban Ballerina will have plenty to like about Little Brother, as the disc's opener "Don't Wanna" fits in perfect continuation with the best of what the former had to offer. While the untrained ear will hear mostly catchy pop-punk, subtle elements of hardcore from the hoarse shouts of ex(?)-Western Addiction bassist Chicken and soulful `77 street punk vocal stylings of former One Man Army frontman Jack Dalrymple help form the dynamic, engaging, and unique sound present in songs like "Arrhythmic Palpitations."

Adding a newly perfected reggae/ska flavor to their arsenal, the title track shines like a tasteful Clash homage with dual vocalists, as Dalrymple muses, "There I go fighting the wrong wars / They're showing me how deserts can storm / So many sand-dusted letters that they send back home" while Chicken helps bellow out the final chorus. "Ran That Scam" follows, with Chicken taking the lead on vocals above a bouncy punk rhythm on arguably the EP's catchiest track, while the closer "What's Wrong" recalls Dalrymple's street punk upbringings in One Man Army with the most Briefs-like Dead to Me has ever sounded.

While there have been plenty of solid releases in 2008, none have reached out with as much conviction and immediacy as Little Brother does. Though it's certainly a gift to have great, new music from Dead to Me, I don't think I'm alone in hoping for another full-length soon to continue on in the direction this EP has taken them. But for now, I'll sit back, put on some Dead to Me, and commiserate with the little brother I never had.