Self-proclaimed dark-pop duo Weeknight return in 2019 with the release of their second record, Dead Beat Creep. Coming nearly five years after their apocalyptically named debut record Post-Everything, Andy Simmons and Holly MacGibbon offer up a collection of shadowy and moody synth-pop tracks that could be exciting if they weren’t so terribly cliché. Dead Beat Creep has clear throw-backs to 80s new wave bands like The Cure and Joy Division, with a hint of modern Ohio rockers The National. Weeknight have managed to successfully capture that classic new wave sound but unfortunately haven’t done enough to breathe new life into an outdated scene.
Halloween 2018 saw Weeknight perform a gig as a Gary Numan cover band, which has evidently influenced their sound on this latest record. Displaying all the characteristics that made Numan famous, Weeknight have tried to bring the combination of late 70s punk-rock, disco and electronic music into the modern era with minimal success. Instead what they have produced is a watered-down version of what their influences were pioneering, which just creates a rather uncomfortable listening experience. It feels like a cover band has attempted to write original material. The album, on a whole, sounds like it has come out of a “How to write 80s music” book, no part of the record jumps out as new or innovative and very little compels the listener to make multiple spins.
The record opens with U2-style number “Settle Down”, featuring spring-delayed guitar that almost squelches through the verses. It’s a track that gallops along without making any real strides. The combination of male-female vocal harmonies in the chorus are commendable, however, the rest of the song sounds like a poor imitation of the intensity that Arcade Fire achieved on Neon Bible (2006). This is only further evident on the single “Outside The Pale” which combines the aforementioned sound with a chorus that could have come straight from The National’s Sleep Well Beast (2017). Simmons’ voice is very close in timbre to that of Matt Berninger, further adding to the confusion that some might experience when first listening to Dead Beat Creep.
“Holes In My Head” again could be a cover of The National; it is almost a play-by-play of textbook techniques used by the Ohio rockers. Admittedly, it’s one of the better songs on the record, with a catchy hook in the chorus and big sounding guitar lines, but it’s a little too close for comfort. Similarly, “A Little Noise” is full of clichés – between the drums and the synth line, the only aspect that feels original is the guitar part. Even the vocal melody seems too familiar.
Interestingly, track five, “Done With Me” diverts towards the chaotic and presents a more emotional response from Weeknight. The strained vocals are exciting and don’t sound like Simmons’ is as bored as on other tracks on the album. The chorus draws similarities to Queens of the Stone Age’s Like Clockwork (2013), which is to say it is different from other songs on the album, but still feels borrowed. The melancholic “Golden Young” chugs along at a steady pace, offering some respite from the style heard elsewhere on the album. The falling synthesizer line and dramatic middle-section may spark some intrigue, but this is offset with a track length of just under six minutes.
The back half of the album sees the outfit turn a corner with “Long Been Dead” and “Falling In Line” picking up where the first half falls short. Disco beats are liberally applied, and soaring synthesizers combined with thumping sequenced bass make for more engaging songwriting. Admittedly, they still follow the same formula as the classics but in a way, they seem less borrowed than previous tracks.
Tracks nine and ten, “Can’t Control” and “Imaginary Light” are strong songs to end the record. “Can’t Control” references that typical U2 sound again with delayed guitars and slow, overly-dramatic drum beats. “Imaginary Light” is arguably the best song on the album, utilising all the production and effects of the rest of the LP but stripped back so that the vocals and songwriting have a chance to shine.
Overall, this record is more inclined to recreate than innovate. Short and fleeting glimpses of quality are heavily outweighed by long segments of unimaginative songwriting that doesn’t bring anything new to a genre that is decades old. If this record had been written forty years ago it might have found an audience that could appreciate the retro sound, however, in the modern era it will likely fall short of peaking the interest of most listeners. Dead Beat Creep is ultimately a disappointment due in large part to the extremely cliché nature of the sound. For those who want to recapture the nostalgia of the late 70s/early 80s new wave scene, you are better off listening to the bands who pioneered the genre, not those who covered it.
Dead Beat Creep is released Friday 1st February via Dead Stare Records