“Dead End Kid” boasts a steady and heavy blues groove, over which Robertson scatters psych-tinged guitar licks and reminisces, in a sharp whisper, about growing up in Toronto and trying to prove wrong those who doubted his ambitions. Hansard provides backing vocals on the track, and the pair combine for a particularly thrilling moment when Robertson rasps and Hansard wails the line, “Sleeping in the subways, hiding in the underground/My momma was looking for me, but I was nowhere to be found.”
“Dead End Kid” follows previously-released Sinematic tracks, “Let Love Reign” — which also features Hansard — and “I Hear You Paint Houses,” which features Van Morrison. Sinematic marks Robertson’s first solo album since 201’s How to Become Clairvoyant and was partly inspired by his work on the soundtrack for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming mob film, The Irishman, while others draw from the work he did for his 2016 memoir Testimony.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Robertson spoke about how the book pushed him towards writing about more personal experiences in his music, which is something he’d largely avoided throughout his career. “It opens a door and some fresh air comes in and things that used to feel too smoky and now aired out a little,” he said. “It feels good to shed that skin.”