The meteoric rise and fall of the initial wave of punk rock in the late 1970s spawned a broad range of genres and subgenres, from faster music like Oi! and hardcore to more mainstream new wave. On the punk side of the spectrum many held true to the anti-establishment origins but weren’t as purely nihilistic as many early bands had been, and one of the first entrants into the positive hardcore (posicore) realm was West London’s Dead Man’s Shadow. All members were under the age of 18 when the band was founded, making their positive outlook even more impressive.
The 4 P’s in the album title are Pride, Pacifism, Passion, and Perseverance, a pretty deep message for some young punks in 1983, and it’s clearly reflected in some of their song titles such as “Will Power,” “We Can Do It Together,” and “Perfect World.” Their sound is early hardcore – the songs are fast and tight, with Matt Dagnut’s vocals brisk, snappy, and clear, sounding more than a little like a fast Joe Strummer. They are a bit like a few other European punk bands I like, notably Filth from Holland and the Finnish powerhouse Lama.
I’m a big fan of the song “Needles” with its alternating fast and slow paced parts, as well as the deep bass and slower pace of the track “Insecure.” But don’t think that means Dead Man’s Shadow doesn’t play well when they do it fast, because in fact they do. Dagnut’s bass drives the band’s sound (just listen to “Danger UXB”), though at times he drops out completely and lets drummer Ian Fisher take over and move the song forward. They’re an unselfish band that meshes well together, everyone getting opportunities to push their songs to new places.
Hardcore isn’t exactly my thing, though I do like it in small doses. The 4 P’s, however, is a record I can see myself coming back to. Dead Man’s Shadow is about more than just playing it fast; they also do play it well and make an effort to ensure you can hear their vocals and therefore their message. Definitely a keeper.