Against the nature of their name, Dead Horse are alive and kicking at every opportunity.
The trio – Kevin Lennon, Duncan Clark and Josh Kemp – come from London and describe their influences as coming from the likes of Jay Reatard, The Cramps and 80s Matchbox. They formed in 2019 when Lennon (bass/vocals) met up with Clark (drums) and Kemp (guitar) via a mutual interest in garage rock/punk, old and new. Their gigs are full of energy and their sounds are heard across London and beyond, inviting fans to induce themselves into the sweaty, raw atmosphere which they bring to any venue. My advice would be to follow their journey – they are highly promising.
Having already gained traction with their debut single ‘Flesh Mountain’, their new 5-track EP Dead Horse I is set to bring an explosion of fans of the garage/punk genre, myself included. The EP spans five songs over just shy of fourteen minutes, making for a short, sweet and tenacious record tackling everything from “indulgence, relationships, death, sex and lust” as quoted by the members of Dead Horse themselves.
To open the EP, we’re greeted with ‘Night’, a quick exercise of the band’s personality. The smooth bass is punctured by pointed guitar chords looking to scratch their marks all over this record, leaving unforgettable scars that characterise Dead Horse as permanent members of the music world. The vocals from Lennon are just as explosive, demanding attention against the thudding beat of the drums. It ignites a clear energy in the band that becomes toxic and addictive, passing on their spirit of their desire to make music to the fans wanting to hear something fresh in the punk world. The song explores a wild disorientation, with a man ‘lost in the night’ as the lyrics go, ‘howling’ like Lennon, who creates an effortless parallel between the imagery of the song and the music interacting with it. The energy is brilliantly captured in the music video for ‘Night’, which you can watch here:
Swiftly following is the charismatic ‘Secrets’, where a faster pace from Clark guides the guitar and bass into something of a classic garage punk rhythm. Kemp brings gravity and grit to the song, being both an underlying instrument for song structure and a sole focus all in himself. While the drums and bass keep the tone low, the guitar spritely jumps between them and provides character to the song with skilful agility. As well, the vocals explore everything there is in a secret kept between two thought to be trusting parties, with one let down by the other’s hidden truth. It holds much more of an organised structure as a song, with Lennon exercising his rough, hard-hitting vocals that complement the instruments and theme of the song beautifully.
‘Headstone’ follows a sense of inevitability, unable to stop the title noun being a finality for Dead Horse and warning others of its similar fate to them. It expresses death in its purest form and what humans become to it – ‘a name carved in stone and nothing else.’ Though macabre, by no means should it be censored. Lennon, Clark and Kemp want the veil to be lifted on the usually tabooed topic, bringing with it a pace akin to the racing train heading towards them and us. Truly, you find yourself tied to the tracks.
In roll Lennon and Kemp with a smooth bass line and guitar overlap for ‘Feral Woman’, joined quickly by Clark for a relaxed entrance into the song. Kemp’s plucking at each stage before the chorus proves to be a beckoning finger of such woman, enticing both the band and fans in to enjoy the company of this interesting character with an underlying bite. It is a catchy tune you’ll be whistling to with a painted picture in your mind of the ‘Feral Woman’, brought to life by the sexual descriptions used by Dead Horse and her own vivid awareness of such qualities about herself, leading to her dominating the mind of those who encounter her. Dead Horse have a knack for making their music and themes coincide with stories and characters invented by their rich, punkish imaginations, which brings this EP a whole host of personalities for listeners to interact with and brings about a positive, intelligent image over the band’s lyrical talents, usually overshadowed in modern day music but expressed wonderfully in Dead Horse I.
The final and longest song of the EP is ‘Creeper’, exploring the sensations of passionate sex. It begins with an almost mystical introduction, as though bringing one down from high and stabilising them with the rhythmic thudding of the kit from Clark. Lennon growls down the microphone, bringing in the occasional hysteria and breaking up single lines to widen his jaw and throw each word down the throat of listeners. He embodies the lyric of ‘driving [him] crazy,’ mentioning every shiver and moment of lost control felt by the receiver of the sensations with a crazed underlay in his vocals. The way sex in all its messy, fervent glory is represented in this song is clever because each member of the band appears to feel the energy of the lyrics and lets it fuel the way they play and sing, crafting a clear interpretation of the topic to show to listeners in a genuinely enjoyable song.
Alive and kicking, unafraid to explore otherwise uncomfortable topics in catchy and gritty tunes and bringing their originality and talents to the table: to echo myself, Dead Horse are a promising trio deserving of a large fanbase.
Dead Horse I is released on 10th July 2020 across all major digital platforms as well as a limited edition run of cassettes.
Review by Caitlin Colley