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Fashion Over Function

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
Fashion Over Function
Sounds like … the hard-hitting punk sounds of the New York Dolls and The Clash laced with rock and roll along the lines of Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground. At a Glance … The Deadlines shed their horror flick image for a fashionable look and also mix up their punk sounds on this short but sweet collection of memorable rockers.

Forming in Portland in 1998, The Deadlines recorded an independent self-titled debut and played concerts throughout the local scene until people took notice. Like most young bands with a desire to pursue music for a living, The Deadlines tirelessly gigged and quickly branched out to a regional level based on word-of-mouth advertising. Eventually, the buzz hit Tooth and Nail Records, who signed the band and released their album The Death and Life of … at the turn of the century. The raw punk sounds propelled the disc to respectable sales, but the band's outrageous stage antics helped them win over new audiences. The Deadlines were known for dressing up like characters from creepy horror films and dancing around the stage like zombies.

Although the look appealed to lots of teens looking for a good time at an underground punk show, clearly more conservative listeners (like their parents) didn't care for the disturbing act. After much consideration, the group decided to change their look as well as their playing style, perhaps in hopes of sporting a more accessible sound and attitude. Many will recall The Elms's recent transition from preppy coffeehouse acoustic rockers, to a Brit-pop band complete with Beatles-inspired fashion. The Deadlines followed suit, switching from strictly gut-wrenching punk and their zombie look to a cleaner punk rock sound and choice of clothing. Their newly incorporated rock-and-roll influences go hand-in-hand with their sharp dressing and model-like poses found within the liner notes of their latest disc Fashion Over Function.

Once again, conservative listeners may question their seemingly egotistical poses and attitudes throughout the booklet (similar to the eyebrows All Star United raised with their excessive marketing ploy for International Anthems For the Human Race). Personally, I think it proves the band doesn't take itself too seriously. As a whole, the project is simple and alternative radio friendly, putting exuberance and humor back into rock and roll. Titles such as "I Want a Stalker" and "Fashion Over Function" should be enough evidence of the group's tongue-in-cheek lyrical composition. "Burn In/Burn Out," one of the group's strongest cuts, calls to mind Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," sped up to punk-rock tempo complete with screaming vocals. "Trouble" reminds me of the '80s glam-metal anthem "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister, while the band once again throws in their punk/rock fury. "Why Are You Running?" is quite a change from the above tracks, toning down the volume to stick closer to the group's influences of Iggy and the Stooges and The Velvet Underground.

Lyrically, the project doesn't have much direct Christian content in it whatsoever. Personally I don't have any problems with that, but want to point that out for consumers desiring spiritual lyrics on every album they purchase. Most of the songs take a wry and sarcastic approach, with only a couple showing more depth ("Double Take" and "Napalm Holiday"). The first features The Deadlines' gritty harmonies while shouting some "woo-hoos" in the spirit of Blur's "Song 2." Basically, the words speak of a person flirting with temptation and eventually falling into the vice they know is wrong. By the end of the song, the main character can't even recognize who he is because he's changed so much. "Double take/You can't believe it's you/ Wake up and you're living a lie/ Now it's true you are what you hate/ Your skin is a disguise." "Napalm Holiday" follows on the disc, addressing the loneliness of a soldier fighting during the Vietnam War. Propelled by the racing beats of crunchy guitars, the song chronicles one particular member of the armed forces who's disenchanted with his orders from President Nixon to basically shoot at anything in sight. The tune makes for an interesting listen, and I can't think of another band that's ever covered that facet of the war.

I'm pleased to see The Deadlines mix things up all across the board and branch out into some new territory on Fashion Over Function. The only thing that keeps me from wholeheartedly recommending this album is its minimal length. The 9 songs clock in at slightly more than 29 minutes, making this release seem more like an EP to hold fans over until The Deadlines's next full-length album. Hopefully it will be priced accordingly.