First Spin... Death From Above 1979's The Physical World
After reforming in 2011, cult Canadian bass-and-drums duo Death From Above 1979 have played to adoring audience around the world, but been tight lipped on when a new album was coming. New songs were played live, the band said they needed to work on them in front of an audience before committing anything to a record.
Finally though the new album, entitled The Physical World is ready to be unleashed on the public. It’s been a decade since their debut record You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine was released, with only a couple of live and remix EPs keeping fans entertained since 2004, and anticipation is high. Have the ten years between albums, during which bassist Jesse F. Keeler kept busy as one half of electro duo MSTRKRFT, changed their sound, or are they sticking to their rigid loud drums and even louder bass formula?
With The Physical World being released on September 8th, we gave it a first spin to find out...
Straight off the bat, we’ve got a more melodic, accessible Death From Above 1979. The album opener is longer than nearly all the tracks on their debut record, and has a more conventional verse course verse structure. There’s an anthemic outro as Sebastien Grainger howls out “You can turn around!” repeatedly over a riff that could be much heavier version of The Killers.
'Right On, Frankenstein!'
A cracking opening, that resembles the intro to The Lemonheads’ cover of ‘Mrs Robinson’ of all things, leads into the kind of thunderous bass riff DFA are known for. Graingier’s lyrics start to get a bit gothic - “I don’t want to die, but I want to be buried/ Meet me at the gates of the cemetery,” - but the driving bass keeps the track roaring on. Two thirds of the way through the track breaks down to a treble-heavy bass part before exploding back into life.
Probably the most headbanging song on the record, it’s something you can imagine crowds bouncing along to at festivals next summer. A stomping blues rock number that’s not unlike The Black Keys, with lyrics about virgins and summer schools that could from a Mötley Crüe song from the mid 80s, and Jesse F Keeler delivering a blistering bass solo in the middle.
Death From Above veer into classic rock territory with the fourth track on the album, with equal parts Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Wolfmother all rolled into its two and a half minutes. It’s a guitar part you’ll swear you’ve heard a million times before, but that doesn’t make it any less funny fun, and they even manage to make things get all psychedelic before the song’s brief runtime finishes, with lots of feedback and Robert Plant-like screaming.
After the brief wig-out of the previous track, ‘Crystal Ball’ come straight back with a riff that would sound most at home on You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. It’s Keeler’s classic throbbing, ever so slightly electronic bass that make Death From Above 1979 so distinctive, alongside Graingier’s rapid fire drumming and bleak yet bitterly funny lyrics melding together like it was 2004 again.
'White Is Red'
We didn’t expect Death From Above 1979 to go acoustic or anything, and while they don’t quite go that far, this is easily the biggest departure for them on the record. Simple bass chords open a song that is the closest the band will ever get to traditional indie rock. If DFA are ever going to have a crossover hit, this would be their best bet. It gets louder towards the end, but instead of the standard DFA bass-and-drums racket it builds a big anthemic singalong.
The first single off the album, you might have already this when it debuted on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show in July. It’s a rollicking punky track with super-catchy high pitch harmonies and lyrics that provide an apocalyptic origin story for the band.
Another two and a bit minutes of loudness, this is probably one of the more throwaway tracks on The Physical World, but still enough to rock out to. The chorus sees some searing synths accompany the vocals, another sign that this is a (slightly) more poppy and accessible DFA 1979.
Graingier’s drumming initialy takes the driving seat on ‘Government Trash”, with his short, sharp hits driving the song forward. Halfway through though the song breaks down to a bass part that sounds like what would happen if a stubby fingered brute tried to play a DragonForce style symphonic metal solo on clunky bass guitar. It’s pretty awesome.
‘Gemini’ adds a wailing electronic feedback loop into the DFA 1979 formula into this cracking little track, which also has the album’s most memorable lyrics, with Graingier wailing about a girl who always “cries on her birthday.”
'The Physical World'
The epic final track on the record opens with 30 seconds or so of bleep-bloop computer noises, before thundering into another pounding bass riff. It then streams along a frantic pace, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, including a slowed down doom metal bit and even a fuzzy piano outro to finish things off.
Death From Above 1979’s new album The Physical World is released on Monday (September 8th) and you can pre-order it in hmv stores now.