To Create, You Must Destroy: Salt Lake's Top Dead Celebrity ride the lighting. 

As the story goes, Salt Lake City’s Top Dead Celebrity needed a merch guy, and frontguy Jeff Anderson asked local music gadabout Jeremy Cardenas if he’d like the job. Cardenas said OK, and the band went on the road, where the following events took place: Cardenas stepped in a pile of human waste large enough to suck off his shoe. He was also ripped off by an unsightly stripper. Then TDC guitarist Nate Moosman decided touring sucked; the band once more had a void to fill. Anderson sent Cardenas a text message to see if he’d join the band. “And he said, ‘OK,’” says Anderson, who admits—with just a trace of irony—to having a rock crush on Cardenas and his band Thunderfist. n

Whooooooo! Let’s hear it for dramatic peaks and valleys, right? Even their own “bio” fails to achieve the towering, hyperbolic myth so seemingly essential to bands that sound as monolithic as Top Dead Celebrity:

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A year and a half. A gunshot wound to the neck. Jail. Tour. Booze. We lost a member in Nate. We gained a member in Jeremy Cardenas. All new songs written. Longer beards. Bigger guts. More tattoos. Worse habits. It’s shaping up to be a good …

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That’s the whole of it. But while there’s scant legend in the genesis of Top Dead Celebrity, there’s plenty in the music. Fire up the band’s eponymous debut (on local indie label Exigent Records), and suddenly you’re riding nekkid, bloody and bareback on a giant Black Lab that burps blue flames and feasts on felines as you snort Adderall—reducing your pupils to mere pixels, munch on a bucket of Extra Crispy, and send drunken text messages to ex-girlfriends just to say, as Anderson bellows on “Lucifer’s Hammer,” “Hey, little miss dinosaur: What do you think of my asteroid?”

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Fuckin’ rock.

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Actually, it’s metal. Doom. Some kind of –core, maybe. Cardenas says this first record—on which, he doesn’t play—is more metallic, the currently ubiquitous “Mesa Boogie Dual-Rectified” sound that metal bands like Lamb of God play, and that Top Dead Celebrity circa now is moving more in the warmer, fuzzier 1970s stoner-rock direction. “None of us are stoners,” says Anderson. “[And] we don’t need 27-minute jams.” They do, however, favor heavy rock with good grooves—pretty much the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary definition of stoner rock, except that Top Dead Celebrity “tries to keep our songs pretty tight and short. Poppy.”

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Except Top Dead Celebrity pops like paparazzi with TNT flashbulbs. The songs are compact, yet still epic in the way that Fu Manchu and Motörhead’s tunes feel like they’ll never end, but also end too soon. There are pop hooks in the form of big, dumb riffs and deep grooves, but they charge and explode with a volatility that belies their accessibility, even as it enhances it. That’s what Top Dead Celebrity is about—constructive craftsmanship.

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“It’s an interesting departure from doing Thunderfist,” says Cardenas, of his hard-partying other band, which he loves but calls more “destructive.” Top Dead Celebrity, by contrast, is “constructive. We gotta do our thing, but keep our [focus].”

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And focus they have. “We’ve got an entire new record written,” says Anderson. “We had about 50 percent of it written before [Cardenas} joined, and then we refined that and finished [the rest]. We like our new material so much more, it just feels better. I don’t know if it’s Jeremy bein’ in the band or us just comin’ together as a band. But it seems like he was the catalyst for us to really get in a good songwriting groove. We’re pumpin’ out the songs and we’re excited about it.”

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TOP DEAD CELEBRITY
nBaylee Parks Benefit, Burt’s Tiki Lounge, 726 S. State, Saturday Dec. 13, 9 p.m.

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