Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World (3 stars)


Canadian dance-punk duo release second album with mixed results

(Last Gang Records/Fiction/Caroline)

It’s hard to work out Death from Above 1979’s reasons for putting out The Physical World: they’ve talked in interviews about the constant nagging from fans and the press, but denied they’re doing it for them; they’ve said it’ll allow them to play live, but they’ve been doing that since their hipster-pant-wetting 2011 reunion anyway.

As ever, it’s probably all part of the great self-mythologising game that Jesse Keeler and Sebastien Grainger love to play: from the tall tales about their meeting, to the ubiquitous two-headed elephant-trunked logo, to writing their own press bio describing themselves as a ‘force of humanity’ and The Physical World as an ‘epic proposal’. Oh yeah, and there’s that ten-year gap since debut You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. And they’re still playing it: the first track made public, ‘Trainwreck 1979’, opens with the signature squeal of feedback and Keeler’s meaty, percussive guitar sound, before Grainger’s familiar howl claims he was born ‘on a highway’ amid the Mississauga train disaster of 1979, when a train carrying chemicals derailed, causing poisonous explosions and mass evacuations. (He was born in that year and that town, but probably not there and then.)

Given the pair’s five-year separation and varied musical activities in that time, it’s surprising how little their sound has changed. The influence of producer Dave Sardy (replacing Keeler’s MSTRKRFT cohort Alex Puodziukas) is felt, though, and not for the better: the vocals are much less prominent and the sound overall has had its roughest, rawest edges shaved off. These are still punchy, hook-driven rock songs, however, and satisfying enough. The shades of frustration have changed from the virile break-up-inspired despair of 2005 to a world-weary variety that sounds like regret, getting older and wondering what you did with your life, being with a girl who ‘cries on her birthday’. It’ll be interesting to see, with Keeler and Grainger having found their place together again, whether it’s another ten years before we hear something more adventurous.

Death From Above 1979 - Trainwreck 1979 [Official Audio]

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