Every now and then, I fall hard for a band. One of those bands, who I was instantly drawn to and quickly became obsessed with, was Death From Above 1979. The sound was so fresh, so vibrant, so full of life and immediate energy that it touched a cord in me that still hasn't subsided. Sadly, the band, at least in their first try, wasn't destined to last. Rumors of arguments and differences soon led to the band announcing the end, and just like that, the band who had recently released a once in a lifetime album was no more.
Years later though, something happened. Out of nowhere, the band was announced as being part of the 2011 Coachella lineup. From there, the band tore up stages with more fervor than previously, and everything worked in the way the band had hoped it could always work. Thankfully, after a while of faith and hoping, we finally have the second album from the briefly legendary Death From Above 1979.
The record, “The Physical World,” starts out in very similar fashion to the album that made them a huge underground phenomenon, “You're a Woman I'm a Machine.” From the early onset, you can tell that the band has not only gotten better at their instruments, but through the passage of years, they've refined their sound. Sure it's a bit more polished, and not as prickly as the previous album, but the crunch of album opener “Cheap Talk” is undeniably DFA1979. I mean, there are tons of bands who can bring it in small packages, but Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger have the grit and veracity to contend with bands that have five or six members. The amount of sound bursting from these two guys is insane and admirable. As you might expect, the album is not really a relaxing Sunday type of record. The second track, “Right On Frankenstein,” ups the ante and pile drives through concrete as Grainger's voice is raspy and out for blood. It's one of the better songs on the album, and shows the listener they haven't lost a touch of the angst with which they crashed through the gates.
“Always On,” might be the best song on this record. Many of the songs are standouts, but this mother of a track is the Everest of the album. You get the impression that the band is aware of the amount of hype surrounding their triumphant return, and they handle the pressure brilliantly, busting out a song so strong, that for my money, is hard to keep going because I know the rest of the album can't possibly top it. This ends up being both true and untrue. It's true because it's the most dfa sounding song on the album, and it hits it out of the park. Its aggressive, and full blown, and chaotic, just how I want this band to be. On the other hand though, it's untrue because the band breaks through a wall in the next couple of songs that is different from anything they've previously attempted, but it still sounds like the band. The song in question, “White is Red” is a love song in the way only this band can deliver. I simply can't get enough of it. It's a real leap forward for these guys, and I'm thoroughly impressed that they went out of their comfort zone and tried something new. The song is pretty bleak at times, but love and relationships can be too. It's very much a realistic portrayal of the difficulties of romance, and one of the best pieces of music the dynamic duo has ever put together. It's a perfect blend of soft spoken openings and crushing climaxes that come to a head in typical fashion and tie the song together.
The next song though, is right back to funky good 'ole Death from Above. “Trainwreck 1979,” was the first single from the record, and for a first glimpse, they really couldn't have picked a better song. If the listener didn't know better one might be hard pressed to figure out what album this was coming from. But in the end I think it's a testament to how solid the band is even after 10 years away. Just writing this review makes me wonder what the band would have been like, had they not broken up. But in a weird way, I'm happy they split, figured out their past failures, and reconvened to start the uphill climb to return to their former glory.
The next three tracks are very familiar sounding, both in style and intensity. Near the end of the first album, the last three songs before the finale are intense and in your face. The band must have realized this worked well, because it's almost the same thing here. “Nothing Left,” is full of dirty bass lines and “Government Trash” starts at 70mph and doesn't slow down. Just picture this song in a hardcore horror film where someone is running from their life in a car while the evildoer is behind them, ready to take them down. The final song in the trilogy of rush hour break beats comes to us in the form of “Gemini.” Instantly, you hear the familiar screeching of JFK's bass and from there, it's a song about a girl “who cries on her birthday” and “bloodstained walls.”
The last song, which also happens to be the title track, is a good song with a great opening. While I like the song a lot, it doesn't hook me like some of the other songs do. I'm aware this sounds like I think the song sucks, but I'm merely stating that, while it's a good song, it's not the landmark you might hope to get at the end of such a emotionally heavy album. Having said that though, overall the record is very strong, and I'm glad to see them making new music after such a long hiatus. Hopefully this time, they have the power to keep going and truly change music again. Thanks for reading.
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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