Dead to Me - African Elephants (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Dead to Me

African Elephants (2009)

Fat Wreck Chords

Sequencing is crucial in a record. You need an ebb and flow. A kick-ass opening song. Should the outro be a rabble-rousing kiss-off or a contemplative fade-out? Inquiring minds want to know!

Personally, I'd like to have sat in on the record meetings for African Elephants, the somewhat drab new release from Dead to Me. What made them choose "X," the lone reggae song of the collection, as the opener? I'm not complaining; it worked for GNV FLA, after all. What sparked the decision to include the fairly random, kind of not that great, Nirvana-esque song "Blue" as the closer after a solid half-hour of Dillinger Four-style punk? Can science explain this?

Now completely devoid of One Man Army members and stripped down to a three-piece, Dead to Me cycles through quite a few ideas on African Elephants. This makes the record come off as a little schizophrenic at times. Following proper lab etiquette, I wafted some fumes from "A Day Without a War" and detected trace amounts of O Pioneers!!!'s stomp. That works in well with more D4-ish tracks like "Modern Muse" and "Fell Right In," which I swear share 98 percent of the same guitar intro. It's an unfortunate case of self-plagiarization, given that the chorus to "Fell Right In" is a killer.

It's this bit of repetition on a record of seemingly diverse ideas that keeps African Elephants from sounding great. It's not a bad album, but I've got a list of other records I'd rather listen to that do the same job only better: Versus God; Apathy and Exhaustion; Neon Creeps. Still, it fulfills those punk obligations suitably enough. There are a few catchy numbers -- "Bad Friends" covers bad friendships and awesome hooks; "Liebe Liese" has a nice strut to it (not to be confused with "Three Chord Strut"); "X" is a cool dub tribute. But there's some malaise during the album's second half.

Maybe that's the logic behind African Elephant's sequencing --"X," being a good song, gets backed up by solid stompers like "Modern Muse" and "Nuthin Runnin Through My Brain" while "Blue" gets...not a whole lot.