Eighteen songs, 26 minutes. You just know that with statistics like that, the CD that you have put into you player is going to be out of the ordinary. The longest song on this album is two minutes and 24 seconds. To be honest if the songs were any longer your head might just cease to be in a fit of pique. Listening to the Death Set’s Worldwide is the real world expression of listening to Vogon poetry. Douglas Adams surely had something like this in mind when he created a race of beings that would use their artistic endeavours to torture those that annoy them. The album reaches in through your ear and batters your brain with a gold brick wrapped in a slice of lemon until you are begging for mercy. It is a veritable assault on the senses.
There is absolutely no point in fighting the inevitable. The sonic attack of Worldwide will kick the fight out of you. You will love this record despite all reason and you will not be able to fully determine why. Is it the catchy punk-o-matic construction of the tunes? Perhaps, they certainly are short and spiky but they aren’t particularly memorable even after a few listens. Then it must be the school ground sing-a-long nature of the vocal delivery? Could be, but in order to sing along you need to decipher the lyrics, and that is frankly nigh impossible. On repeated listens the only chorus I could work out was to “Intermission” which appeared to comprise of “something, something, the motherf**king death set”, or something.
If Worldwide goes half way to capture the live experience of this band then the Death Set are a must see. These songs are fed through the early 1980s UK punk scene and spat out at velocity accompanied by a biscuit tin lid, a cheap Bontempi organ and a Speak and Spell. Can you spell “It Rocks”? It may sound like it was written and performed by a bunch of spotty teenagers with more testosterone and angst than talent but it sure gets the fire stoked. To go through each track and try to describe them or even liken them to that which has gone before would be pointless in the extreme. Try to imagine Big Black singing karaoke to a 12″ Long Playing record (like your Dad has) of early Devo songs, played at 45 rpm.
With songs no longer than two and a half minutes how do you manage to squeeze in fillers? Somehow the Death Set manage. There are five under-a-minute instrumentals that would suffice for ringtones if you were of a mind to really piss people off. My choice is the 30 second “MFDS” which is a sample of the chorus of “Intermission”. I spend each day in a Russian roulette situation praying that my mobile phone doesn’t go off in that important board meeting; it is the only thing that keeps me awake.
Worldwide is a timely reaction to the kind of songs that you hear on the radio every single day. It screams, “tear down and rebuild” just as a good punk record should, while the music industry around it is saying, “recycle”. What’s more the musicians are clearly smiling in the process. Frank Zappa once begged the question “Does Humor Belong in Music?” The Death Set scream, “yes, yes, yes” like Meg Ryan on Pink Viagra. While for the most part it is a bloody noise, it is a welcome noise and one that I will certainly be inflicting upon myself in the future. If only I could work out what they were saying.