Starting with 1986's ... And He's Not Gonna Take It Anymore and ending with 2009's A New Clear Route, My Dad is Dead released 13 albums over the years. The early releases evoke a desolate, gutted post-punk landscape, while the later '90s albums explore wider sonic boundaries. Edwards' last two albums suggest the chunkier riffage and bigger hooks of essential '90s indie rock. Below, we look at five key My Dad is Dead releases and why they matter.
... AND HE'S NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE (1986) still stands; after all, its tinny electronic beats are suddenly au courant given '80s revivalism. Besides the xenophobic "Anti-Socialist," other classic cuts include the slow-build paean to gray skies of the soul, "Talk to the Weatherman," and the dreamy "In Your Mind," which echoes the Bunnymen. "I don't think I picked up a guitar until I was 24," Edwards says. "It took about two years to get to the point where I had enough [songs] I could make a record with. My mentor was Tim Gilbride, an extremely talented guitarist who taught me basic chord patterns. You can hear an echo of his style in my playing."
THE TALLER YOU ARE, THE SHORTER YOU GET (1989) mixes noise and minimalism in ways that evoke post-punk, noise rock and shoegaze. Some of the highlights from this 15-track double album include the ringing psych of "The Big Picture," which recalls Dream Syndicate, and the infectiously pulsing paranoia of "Too Far Gone." During the churn of "What Can I Do," Edwards anxiously sings, "What I need is to know what I need." The record did well: "I think the final total sales were 7 or 8,000," remembers Edwards. "A lot of the Homestead releases were selling less then 3,000. It got pretty good push, but it never got to the level where it could advance beyond that."
CHOPPING DOWN THE FAMILY TREE (1991) takes something of a left turn by softening the guitars and exploring more melody and propulsive rhythms. There are holdovers, like the noisy, emotionally skittish "Know How To Run" and the hard-charging "Deliver Me Home." But the best tracks—including the title cut and the Big Dipper-ish "Don't Burn Down the Bridge"—work hook-laden college rock jangle. "It's a much happier album for me, especially the second side of it. Whereas I thought of it as a progression, some fans didn't take it so kindly," he says. "We got some notoriety and attention off that album ... and a slot opening for the Pixies."
FOR RICHER, FOR POORER (1995) moves further afield into pop, bringing even more acoustic guitars and folk attitude to bear. Edwards even escapes his deadpan delivery on "Way Too Wise." Other keepers include the canny "Déjà Vu" and the spunky, elliptical "Crazy World." Says Edwards, "I went to Nashville and did the whole big 24-track, with multiple arrangements, lots of guitar sounds and different production techniques. Our goal was to make the slickest, most commercially accessible MDID record ever."
A DIVIDED HOUSE (2005) turns the animus Edwards usually reserves for other people onto our political system. On the title cut, he opines "We didn't hire you to mess up our society/ We don't care about appearances of piety/ Your religion is a practice of deception/ Worship manipulation of perception." But the best track is the confessional "My Safe Place," where Edwards expresses his appreciation for his friends and how they shelter him through the daily storms. It's a full-circle moment that exists as a corollary to "Anti-Socialist," a dichotomous, evolved attitude expressed from the other end of Edwards' life.