#AOTW- Death From Above 1979

I write a lot about folksy rock music on this blog, mostly because I like that kind of thing. Why the hell else would I write about it? Now and again though, I don’t want the soft stuff. Sometimes when I can’t get past some bullshit in my day, the only thing that’s going to drown everything out is something hard, fast, and screamy. On those days, I pop on my headphones, sit back, and kick the volume up till I can’t think. I’m embarrassed to say that when I was in my “younger and more vulnerable years,” I’d get stressed out, throw Slipknot in the disc man, and with their chaotic blast as my soundtrack, I’d get all emo-teary eyed. Thankfully I find myself doing that less now. Maybe my temperament has changed. Maybe I’m just more comfortable in my own skin and have finally gotten out of the mindset that Junior High social circles are life’s “end all be all”. Or maybe I just discovered muscle relaxants and good scotch. Bottom line is, I don’t need that loud, aggressive jolt to get me through the day as often as I used to. I’ve come to the firm belief that the constant listening of angry tunes can’t be conducive to happy day-to-day living. But once in a while, I gotta let loose. I gotta get that thrash to take me out of my own head.


I think that may be what the rave scene is all about. Pop some Molly and just dance your problems away. That shit isn’t my style though. No sir. I’ve never liked crowds, so shockingly enough my stress outlet didn’t become a music scene where me and a bunch of strangers pop pills, that make us think hugs are yummy and everyone is beautiful, as we all writhe around and watch some jerk off on a stage play with a mixing board. Is he doing anything up there? Couldn’t he have just popped in a mixtape he made and stood there bobbing his head? Who would know the difference? Also, I want to know when attending EDC became more socially acceptable than flipping the bird after being cut off in traffic. One would think, in this Soccer Mom society we’ve become, government organizations would be more upset about a yearly 3-night drug binge in the middle of a Vegas Raceway. Instead they’re still on this “gays can’t get married” kick. I’m way off topic here, but I’ve got a lot of friends who used to be pretty cool that are now too far into this and have nothing interesting to talk about in normal conversation.


But back to my point, when I need a stress reliever, fuck Dubstep, fuck Electro; give me this week’s Artist Of The Week. Toronto’s own, DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979.


Getting their start back in early 2001 when bassist Jesse Keeler and drummer Sebastian Grainger, started recording on an 8-track recorder in Keeler’s parents’ basement, they began playing a sort of metal/ dance-punk that was unlike anything on the airwaves. After the release of their EP’s Heads Up and Romantic Rights, the band released their first studio album, You’re a Woman, I’m A Machine, in late 2004. It’s a scant 32 minutes long, but that band does more in those 32 minutes than most accomplish on a special edition double disc. There’s no filler whatsoever. The opening track titled Turn It Out starts with a slow punch of piano’s keys and then suddenly, the incendiary drumming, the squealing bass, and the shrieking vocals grip you like a vice. Despite how unpleasant that may sound, it’s face-meltingly rad.

(This fan vid had the best audio available via youtube)


After that first track, the album never lets up. Relentless is the best way to describe Death From Above 1979. I’m a guy who writes a lot about loving simplicity in music. So these guys won me over simply with the fact that they created this violent sound with simply two guys, a distorted bass guitar, a drum kit, and the occasional use of a synth. Blood On Our Hands and Sexy Results are exceptional examples of how, with their minimal setup, these boys can rip a hardcore rock song and then use that same sound in trudging dance track.


The album was well received and the band started heavily touring to promote. They even made an extremely memorable appearance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. During their performance of Romantic Rights, Sebastian abandoned his drum set midway through the song only to have Max Weinberg jump in and pick up the slack. It’s something to behold. Weinberg is a god behind that kit; at least after he finally gets his suit jacket off.


“Death From Above 1979 “Romantic Rights by lalarikyu
It wasn’t long after that appearance that the band suddenly broke-up. The announcement was made on their blog with a post that got right to the point. “We decided to stop doing the band…” After a single album, apparently the creative differences were just too much for the two of them. It’s strange; when it’s just two dudes in a band you’d think things would be easy. Most bands have four or five egos to deal with, but DFA 1979 was just two buds. Couldn’t buy each other a beer, talk it out, and move on with the music? They had created less than an hour of total content in their years of existence and now they were gone.


That is until early 2011. I had started seeing their name pop up festival lineups. Sure enough they made appearances at SXSW, Coachella, and Sasquatch. Each time performing in front of a large mural of a tombstone that read “Death From Above 1979 2001-2006”. It seemed they wanted everyone to think that this was just going to be an occasional thing. There would be no true reunion. But this week, Tuesday September 18th, 2012, DFA announced a Canadian tour on their blog that would be the warm up going in to record their second album. To read the post in it’s entirety find it here. The highlight for me was this passage…


What next? Want to do it all again?
So here we go. Jesse and I have been writing new songs and the only way we feel like we can make them any good is to go out and play them for people. We’re going to throw our little muscle bound babies to the lions and see who survives. We tried just jumping into the studio, but the songs lacked spirit. They lacked life. So this tour is song CPR. There’s no way for us to do it
anonymously anymore, so we’re inviting you to come along with us. Watch us Do It. The way we used to. The way everyone used to.


I can’t wait. The mere idea of getting my hands on another DFA 1979 album is exciting, but at the same time I worry. Since they have been broken up, several bands (Sleigh Bells, Wavves) have tried to capture that same raw sound. Granted these are both good bands, but will new fans of DFA 1979 see DFA as the originators or the copycats? I couldn’t careless though. As a long time fan, I want to hear those new tracks. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to have some good new brooding music. Here’s my plan. Once the new album comes out, I’m not going to listen to it right away. I’m going to wait. I’m going to sit on it until that first shit day at work, that day where nothing goes right, and everyone is an asshole. That will be the day where I come home, pour a tall glass of scotch, throw on DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979’s new stuff, and let the distorted bass, and vicious drums wash away the bullshit. My god. It will be beautiful.


Big Hugs,