Austin, Texas has spawned a wide variety of idiosyncratic music acts over the last forty plus years – everyone from outlaw country performers to alternative rock acts can claim they discovered receptive audiences and creative safe harbor in the state capital. The duo Being Dead is the latest to make their mark on the city’s musical history. Cody Flowersworth and Juli Jackal are multi-instrumentalists and songwriters with a distinct and unique point of view; you will struggle to draw identify clear antecedents corresponding with what they offer listeners on Fame Money Death by Drive By. Their artistry, however, isn’t difficult to spot. Structure defines much of this five song EP; sonic touches in both the opener and finale alike make for excellent bookends and illustrate some of their intentions.
They are also defined by an unique synthesis of styles. While you may not be able to come straight out and say Being Dead reminds you of any specific band, the songwriting often recalls the experimental acid pop heard near the end of the 1960’s and early years of the 1970’s. They manifest those psychedelic sonic touches through a manipulation of sound; their recording instincts are unerring. The first track, “Red Drive”, provides ample evidence for this. Moreover, it also proves they never sacrifice melody for the sake of skewering listener’s expectations. Instead, they lay unexpected musical and aural turns into the arrangement, especially during the song’s beginning with the unexpected near-scat vocals in an ornate setting and the conclusion when the entire character of the track changes into something much different than the song prepares you for.
The third song, “Apostle’s Prom”, is a much different matter. The musical attack has a rougher edge, never ditching melody altogether but assuming a more menacing air, but there are crucial similarities. Instead of placing the unexpected turns at the beginning and end of the track, Being Dead keep listeners on the edge of their seats by placing such moments throughout the main body of the song. “Hot Car” is the next song and it has an expansive touch missing from the other cuts suggesting it is the EP’s centerpiece moment. The arrangement recalls the mood and approach we hear with the first two numbers on Fame Money Death by Drive By and Juli Jackal enjoys her finest moment as a vocalist on the EP, but everything falls apart near the song’s end and “Hot Car” tumbles into a jagged noise collage setting up the last song.
“Used Up” is a blast of pure punk rage. The duo might bristle a bit describing it as “punk”, but there’s little doubt listening to it that they definitely capture much of the rambunctious two-fisted attitude common to the style. It is a short ending for Fame Money Death by Drive By, clearing the one minute mark by a handful of seconds, but accomplishes its aims. Attentive listeners will hear references to the opener “Red Drive”. It is a brief closer, but effective and puts an exclamation mark on one of the more challenging, yet entertaining, releases I have heard this year.