Dead Poetic’s Vices, released 2006, is in many ways not an exciting album. The music is run-of-the-mill, humdrum hard rock of the 00’s, there is nothing novel about it. It fits perfectly with what other average hard rock bands were doing at the time stylistically and technically. So why has the album stuck with me? Why has it made quite an impression on me and why do I think it is well worth a listen?
Because while the music is not stylistically and technically impressive, it is sonically, affectively, and lyrically poignant. It is an album whose main theme is fame. The responsibilities, the pressures, temptations and conflicts that result from being famous. While Dead Poetic was never a band that was very popular they did garner some success and with it came some of the fame, and with that came the material that would be the subject of this album.
In Vices the band articulates and portrays itself as well aware of the responsibilities that come with being famous. The expectations and the responsibility of the artist to act in ways that don’t hurt or disappoint the fans. There is implied moral, social and show business expectations as well. This is where the pressures come in, the obligation to conform, to meet a certain number of expectations that are not exactly spelled out. This happens through the sacrifice of the members, it happens at their expense because they are the ones the spotlight is on, they are the ones that have to act and be. Everyone else, the record company, the media and the fans, are simply entitled to it. However, at the end of the day members of a band are human, and they are bound to make mistakes, they are bound to buckle under pressure. They can’t possibly please everyone. This splits the mind of the band, it feels like whatever they do they are always disappointing someone, themselves or simply failing, because not everything you do can please everyone; you please one person, you disappoint another, you attend to yourself and you neglect something/someone. The psychological, emotional turmoil that results is well expressed in both the lyrics, the vocal delivery, and some of the tones they utilize.
Then there is the carnal spoils of fame. Much of music today dwells on these parts, the good parts of being famous. The parties, the money, the girls, the drugs and all the perks of a hedonist’s lifestyle. Indulgence and hedonism is the gateway to happiness, right? No, says Dead Poetic. They aren’t very happy, and it isn’t for the obvious reasons either but for biographical, deep rooted reasons. For a band that comes from a Christian background, considering the band formed in a church, there would be a massive inner conflict between the core values they grew up with and the lifestyle they were living or the vices that they accumulate as result of fame and success. This ongoing conflict, between what has now become the norm in their new social circles, and their ingrained moral beliefs created an immense sense of isolation, confusion and distress. The sheer inability to completely transition, or reconcile these different worlds, leaves them in a state of desolation, spiritually and on a personal level. And because of it they can’t quite figure out who they want to be, or pursue the things they would like to pursue because their identity is fragmented and incongruent. Priorities frequently get jumbled, they can’t hold relationships that are important to them or cherish the things that are of utmost value, the fundamental relationships and the personal support structures that nourish their lives are strained, neglected and abandoned. This is sad, and it doesn’t only happen because happen because of the lifestyle, but also because of the demands of a career in the music industry.
Essentially the whole album threads these sensibilities, conditions and issues so into a powerful whole. This album is honest, revealing and authentic. That is why I think Vices by Dead Poetic is worth a listen, this is why Vices has stuck with me. It is an album to be touched by and to learn from, and I can’t remember the last time I heard something like this.
Standout tracks from the album are:
Go give them a listen. Below is Paralytic, one of my favorite off the album.