LIVE: Dead Poet Society - Electric Ballroom, London, 01/12/2022

LIVE: Dead Poet Society – Electric Ballroom, London, 01/12/2022

Hailing from Boston, MA, but now based in Los Angeles, CA, Dead Poet Society (singular on the Poet, unlike the classic Robin Williams movie) are rapidly emerging as one of the most exciting prospects from the American alt-rock scene in years.

Comprising Jack Underkofler on vocals/guitar, Jack Collins on lead guitar, Dylan Brenner on bass, and Will Goodroad on drums, their 2021 debut album, -!-, was a hugely ambitious journey through anxiety and loss. The record displayed the heavily tuned-down guitars and soulful songwriting of early Highly Suspect, also making heavy use of Matt Bellamy-style falsetto vocals while being mercifully free of Muse‘s pretentious filler, retaining a strong focus throughout. It rightly received a strong critical response.

Tonight, they are ostensibly in London as support to Badflower, but it quickly becomes clear that as many people are here to see DPS as to see their fellow Californians. A long queue snakes around the Electric Ballroom a full hour before doors, and the venue is packed by the time DPS come on. An early request from Underkofler for some vocal assistance on ‘.AmericanBlood.’ receives a rousing response, with a good 50% of the crowd appearing to know the track word-for-word. Impressive.

For those who weren’t so familiar with the band before tonight, DPS waste no time winning them over. Opener ‘.burymewhole.’ starts with a melancholy guitar groove before exploding into a fierce hard-rock track, reminiscent of Royal Blood, particularly with Brenner’s bass in the pounding bridge section.

The strength of this band, like all the best rock bands, is in how they combine the brutal with the beautiful. Underkofler has a tremendous vocal range, capable of switching from scream to melancholy in a single heartbeat. The band behind him, too, know how to set that scene, being high-energy chaos for the most part, but also eyeing the crowd thoughtfully where appropriate.

That said, the band’s heavier moments are staggeringly good. ‘.SALT.’, in particular, is incredible. Featuring tender vocals over Collins’ devastating industrial guitar line in the verses, Underkofler creates some wonderful, jittery effects using a slide in the chorus, almost like there is an alarm going off. It has been an awfully long time since we have heard a hard-rock track this good come out of the US.

The band close out with probably the two most accomplished songs from -!-, ‘.intoodeep.’ and ‘.CoDA.’, and a massive moshpit suddenly breaks out. Why’d it take so long, eh, London? It was well worth the wait though. These two tracks really point to the huge crossover potential that this band has, featuring massive singalong choruses to go alongside the ubiquitous guitar brilliance. “Talk shit babe, say it like you wanna leave, YOU LOVE ME LIKE COCAINE, YEAH!”

Tonight’s set really does scream out “future greatness!” very loud. There is clearly phenomenal talent here, and the songwriting and musicianship is astonishing. There are a lot of directions they can potentially take their sound. On behalf of all of us who still lament Highly Suspect moving away from the hard-rock sound that made Mister Asylum one of the best debut albums this century, this author hopes they keep making liberal use of those heavy guitars. One gets the sense, though, that whatever way they go, they will do it very well indeed.

Seriously. What a band.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.