PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Death From Above 1979: The Physical World

Ten years on, Death from Above 1979 kicks just as much ass.


Death From Above 1979

The Physical World

Label: Last Gnag
US Release Date: 2014-09-09
UK Release Date: 2014-09-09
Amazon
iTunes

Welcome back, gentlemen, it’s been too long...

...is an understatement. It was a decade ago that the two Ontario dudes that call themselves Death from Above 1979 set the rock world on fire with their incendiary debut album You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. This was just a year after the White Stripes’ garage rock landmark Elephant and the same year as The Black KeysRubber Factory. Death From Above 1979’s American peers used the two player dynamic to amp up guitar licks and thumping rhythm. DFA, on the other hand, were all about the low end. Jesse Keeler’s bass was speedy and could spit fire like a six string, but would never be mistaken for one; there was too much grit in the sound. Sabastian Granger avoided the 4/4 thwomp of Meg White, his hyper active drumming keeping up with his yelps. The blues were somewhere in their foundation, but glam and punk were also on display. Their giddy descriptions of debauchery closed the gap between DFA and their closest sonic relations Queens of the Stone Age (Josh Homme even recognized the kinship and hopped aboard a remix album). So one album, a smattering of remixes, a handful of EPs then—nothing. By 2006 Keeler and Granger had moved onto new projects, leaving rock with a DFA shaped hole. The duo started touring again in 2011, but the wait has been excruciating. So 10 years later, what’s the verdict? The Physical World is, thankfully, one of those rare returns that makes it seem like no time has passed at all. It’s a logical progression from their debut, and it kicks just as much ass.

Kiss frontman and general curmudgeon Gene Simmons recently declared that rock is dead; if that’s true, then DFA are doing their best to reanimate it. To go back to the Queens of the Stone Age comparison, The Physical World and Queens’ 2013 LP …Like Clockwork are two of the best rock albums of the last few years because they’re... *gasp*... fun. There have certainly been more cerebral albums in 2014, but few have been this ecstatic. Granger’s wailing is just as energetic as ever, reviewing tales of delicious sleaze with obvious relish. His drumming has never been better, proven by the speed demon click-clack of “Crystal Ball” and the mad rush of “Turn On”’s outro. Keeler is in a league of his own on bass. No one has the same mastery of four-string lead like he does. The general jittery feeling the album owns is also due to a sense of campiness that creeps into the songs. Keeler’s blindingly fast riff on “Government Trash” sounds like the score to Ghouls and Goblins, “Right on, Frankenstein!” has Ganger screaming, “always too much talking, not enough eating brains!” The title track starts as the soundtrack to a particularly epic final boss fight and ends with a sonic jump scare, perfect for a Halloween dance party.

Death From Above 1979 also go big on The Physical World. Lead single “Trainwreck 1979” was proof of that, but from the starting alarm notes of opening track “Cheap Talk,” it’s clear that DFA are making up for lost time. Yes, they’re a two man band, but they make more noise than all 47 members of Arcade Fire put together. Each chorus is handcrafted for shout-alongs, all embedded with just the right amount of lust. The stomping “Virgins” has Granger shouting, “where have all the virgins gone?” The opening cry of “I was born on a highway in a trainwreck” on “Trainwreck 1979” is badass-edly nonsensical enough to become the most screamed lyric of this year’s festival circuit. The duo slows it down to a sensual burn on make-out anthem “White is Red” and “Right on, Frankenstein!” is one of the finest they’ve put to tape. The first bit is mosh worthy punk, then comes the outro. Keeler’s bass solo is near regal in its brilliance, and the sudden kick of Granger’s drums propels the whole thing into rock glory.

All of these tracks show Death From Above 1979’s strongest weapon: momentum. Even in the pauses between snare hits or bass riffage, the music still moves. The starting energy that Granger and Keeler use to launch the album never dissipates, it simply flows in continuous catchiness. If it wasn’t for the brief misstep of “Gemini” and Granger being cheeky enough to sing “Oh no!/Not again/I get the feeling this is never gonna end,” The Physical World would be near flawless. As it stands, it’s still one of the year’s finest and worth the wait. When Granger screams, “the story never ends as long as we have blood and guts,” it sounds like he’s got plenty of both. Let us pray to the music gods that it’s not another decade before their next one; rock needs more adrenaline shots like this.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.