September 18, 2014

New Music: Death From Above 1979 Enters 'The Physical World'

"The thing that we learned in our time away is that the band exists without us."
Death From Above 1979 | Commodore Ballroom

It's only slightly odd how it took ten years after Death From Above 1979's initial breakthrough effort, You're A Woman, I'm A Machine, for the Toronto dance punk duo to finally release their sophomore record. All this is happening after their quiet break up and subsequent reunion over creative differences and mutual acrimony/hostility. The Physical World is finally here and it definitely shows a decade of growth and musical sophistication while still harkening to the band's trademark visceral sound.

Gone for the most part are the uncomfortably raw yet charmingly dirty tones in exchange for a more polished rock and roll sound. Vocalist/drummer Sebastien Grainger and bassist/keyboardist Jesse F. Keeler (also of MSTRKFT) have commented how they've been writing this record (even if in their own minds) for half a decade now with the actual songs and music being is some form of completion over the last couple years. This is positively evident as The Physical World is a tight and wondrously rhythmic album. The thrashing sounds and grittiness is further refined and aesthetically pleasing. Just as their fans (including yours truly) have aged, grown, and matured, so have DFA1979.

Thematically, the eleven tracks making up the record serve a different master. They express a more specific creative quality addressing their own musical journey. This band isn't everything to them anymore. Both have different creative and musical outlets. There isn't the same sense of all-consuming passionate urgency but a more harmonic, definitive quality. Oddly enough, the album is still somewhat about curing dissatisfaction, scratching an itch, and revisiting or addressing youthful indiscretions with a wiser form of noise rock.

Death From Above 1979 | Commodore Ballroom

As for the songs, the first released track, "Trainwreck 1979", is a pulsing, almost poppy, radio friendly anthem. "Always On" is smoothy catchy and charming in its dance tones and easy beats. "Virgins", "White is Red" and "Nothing Left", all about a different sense of longing in love and relationships, filling out the album and other collection of likeable yet superficial tracks rather fluidly, each with their own distinct flavour, approaching a different level of DFA1979's musical repertoire from hard rock, punk, dance, and heavy bass.

Grainger and Keeler avoid merely reliving past glories by choosing not to remake their first and only record, despite its persistence cult status and fandom, luring the pair out of retirement. It's a relief how well Death From Above 1979 has aged and evolved while moving on from such a distinct, well-loved sound. While the lyrical substance isn't as hefty, the progressive beats are as the record gets better and more comfortable with every play.

You can watch the full-length documentary on the band's origins, break up, and reunion in Life After Death From Above 1979.

More | YVArcade / 2011 / ReunionV.I.A. / CBC Music / CoS / PMA

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