The Popical Island collective set the bar high last year, whether it was with their Popicalia gig nights, individual releases like Groom’s Marriage or indeed the superb Popical Island #1 compilation. Yeh Deadlies, founding members of the collective and in many ways the archetypal Popical band (lo-fi production, charming pop hooks, clever songwriting), were responsible for two sterling releases of their own: the excellent Magazine 7″ and the Hallowe’en-themed The Dead Living EP, both of which showcased some deviously catchy songcraft.
For debut long-player The First Book Of Lessons, the Deadlies’ maintain their lo-fi shamble-pop sensibilities. ‘The Present Perfect’ is a mellow, mid-tempo opener with an irresistible chorus that highlights one of the main charms of the band, namely the complementary vocals of Padraig O’Reilly and Annie Tierney. It’s followed by ‘Magazine’, which still sounds as vibrant as ever, while ‘Best Man Speech’ cheekily quotes the Sex Pistols in its opening bars before settling back into familiar jangly, harmony-laden mode. The wistful vignette of ‘The Kids In The Band’ is a standout, while ‘No Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams (In Empty Beds)’ provides an earworm that’s up there with their Popical contribution ‘Teenage Pricks (Up Yours Forever)’.
However, while there’s undoubtedly the makings of a(nother) great EP here, you do get the feeling that the Deadlies have overstretched themselves a bit with 14 tracks. There’s a sense of diminishing returns towards the latter stages of the album, with neither enough variety nor enough resounding hooks to hold the attention: none of it is bad as such, but tracks like ‘Do The Worm’ and ‘Superman’ sort of plod along inoffensively and unmemorably. A track or two like the gorgeous ‘Constitution Hill’ (from the ‘Magazine’ 7”) would have provided a crucial bit of shade; as it is, the sugar-rush provided by Yeh Deadlies wears off just a little too soon.