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The Dead Brothers
B2 Club 
By Chris Doss
They may not be brothers, and they are certainly not dead, but Swiss ensemble Dead Brothers did bring the lighter side of passing into the beyond to Moscow club B2 last Thursday as part of a two-stop tour (with a second gig in St. Petersburg).

Formed in Geneva as part of the Swiss experimental-music scene (yes, there is such a thing), Dead Brothers put out their first record in 2000. Heavily influenced by genres and musicians as diverse as Kurt Weill, cabaret, French chanson, psychobilly and Tom Waits, Dead Brothers brought their signature mix of high concept, low sleaze and just a good old time to the stage. In keeping with their motto — “dead music for dead people,” in a nod to a similarly named album by those icons of punk-rockabilly, the Cramps — they came out decked in their trademark pallbearers’ outfits and proceeded to treat the audience to a unique evening.

Dead Brothers’ songs tend to be about, well, death. But it’s by no means a melancholy group — no, the Dead Brothers approach to our universal final end is closer to that of an Irish wake, a celebration of our mortality. And celebrate they did, belting out both originals and classics (including the old blues number “St. James Infirmary” and the Cramps’ wall-crawling “Human Fly”) on guitar, drums, accordion and tuba. Hailing as they do from Switzerland, probably one of the most polyglot places on Earth, there is no surprise that they sang in English, French, German and Italian — though not in Russian, unfortunately though they did suggest that a Russian interviewer join the band and perhaps do some translation service. The lyrics were done in the raspy, nicotine-coated whine/growl/bellow style that did so much to propel Tom Waits to as close to the level of stardom as one can get on the cult stage — and which has become de rigueur for so much experimental music that tries to stir up blues, country and roots into a single eclectic mix.

That cabaret had a strong influence upon the group was evident as well by the theatricality of their stage show, which involved much hamming and shuffling about the stage in a (presumably) staged alcoholic stupor — think “The Threepenny Opera” with attitude and on a three-day drunk, and you’ll get a good approximation of what the band is like on stage.

B2 was a good choice of venue. Dead Brothers is something of a dance band, its dismal theme notwithstanding, and has got to be one of the only groups I have ever seen that can turn a funeral dirge into a no-holds-barred foot-stomp.

There is no word as to when and if Dead Brothers will be back in Russia. The band members themselves say that, though they have always tried to play further south, something about the Northern climes seem to draw them there. After all, celebrations of darkness may seem more relevant at a latitude where, in winter, the sun can be just a hazy recollection than in balmy Italy or Spain. In any case, if they do come back, don’t miss the opportunity so see them — after all, who knows when the bell will toll for any of us? It could be your final chance.

24.04.03
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