In early June, we got a sneak peek at Commander Keen’s latest full-length with the track “When David Bowie Passed Away“; a bombastic burst of foreboding rock with unhinged, distorted, vocals. Now the album it belongs to, Dying in the South, is released everywhere and we can hear how that tracks fits into the larger context of the record.
Even with a cursory listen, it’s easy to hear that Commander Keen is going for the throat with the output of energy from the record. The first five tracks, including “David Bowie”, are an onslaught of sweaty rock fused with influences of snarling punk and anthemic chorus lines. Once you hit “Woodcutter”, presumably the end of Side A on the vinyl, the pace slows down a bit for a fleeting moment before it completely unravels on the next track, “Bible Belt”, and continues to maintain that pace until the slow burning album ender, “Kings of Tennessee.”
Maybe I’m being presumptuous but looking at track titles like “Low Budget Dreams”, “Mountain Dew Capital of the World” and the titular “Dying in the South” seem to tell the story of a band from a small town feeling hindered by their surroundings. It’s a story that any band – from the outskirts of Cookieville or not – can relate to. The South is considered a Conservative home base with rampant racism, misogyny and homophobia running rampant, not to mention crushing poverty for many. Being a rock band raised in that environment can result in plenty of angst and a desire for a cathartic expulsion towards the world around you. Throughout the record there’s a sensation of palpable frustration through the lyrics – both in terms of content and their delivery – and I can only hope this means that Dying in the South is a call-to-arms to escape the confines of the Southern stereotype.