When Death From Above 1979 broke up back in 2006, their dissolution seemed swift and irrevocable. The unholy marriage had soured to the point that the duo didn’t even speak to one another for five years, and the prospect of a return slowly but surely disappeared into the distance, leaving an EP and a blistering debut album as their brief but memorable legacy.
But the questions never went away, the desire to see the band return never seemed to dissipate, and so it was that the hatchet was buried, a successful end to the hiatus was manufactured, and suddenly I found myself at a sold-out show at The Troubadour waiting for Death From Above 1979 to take the stage and preview their second album, arriving a mere decade after their first.
This was a reunion that I admit to approaching with more than a little apprehension. After all, Death From Above 1979’s first incarnation was one of those whirlwind, lightning-in-a-bottle moments that it’s difficult to imagine having the same impact after a long period away. There’s always a worry that something so zeitgeisty can sound dated with time. I can now safely say that the apprehension evaporated about sixty seconds into the set as they blazed through the title track off their debut album and kicked the performance into top gear, a speed they would not decelerate from for the duration of the show (minor technical issues notwithstanding).
Death From Above 1979 is still a little too good to be true, especially from a record label point of view. They’re low maintenance (just a bassist, a drum kit, and a LOT of amps), they have a built in t-shirt logo, and they have a sound that seems so obvious it’s no surprise that the new material from forthcoming album The Physical World simply picks up where the group left off all that time ago.
That sound is a bass guitar played through a distortion pedal that makes every note played by Jesse Keeler on the bass sounds like a gut-rumbling riff. Most of those riffs are backed by the crashing drum sounds of Sebastian Granger, whose yelping singing voice hasn’t suffered at all with age. The overall effect has always been that of a more commercial take on Lightning Bolt’s noise rock mixed with a hint of the indie-dance sound that made the likes of LCD Soundsystem so popular. Warner Bros. obviously still sees enough in that appeal to back Death From Above 1979’s new album.
And the audience lapped it up. What began with a fair amount of pogoing near the front eventually morphed into a slam pit as the band ramped up the electricity throughout the show. By the time the members came back out for a slightly delayed encore, having deafened about half the crowd, they caused a mini-riot with a performance of very early song “Death Womb” before finishing, almost inevitably, with the irresistible dance punk of “Romantic Rights.” It was a long set considering the intensity level, pushing an hour and a quarter, but it was invigorating rather than draining. It feels like Death From Above 1979 was never gone, and it’s great to have them back.
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