Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World

DFA’s debut full length, You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine was a furious cesspit of violent, abrasive noise mixed with delicious, foot-tapping dance beats. Opener Turn It Out, with Jesse F. Keeler’s screeching bass guitar and singer Sebastian Grainger’s simultaneously …
By Liam Harrison

DFA’s debut full length, You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine was a furious cesspit of violent, abrasive noise mixed with delicious, foot-tapping dance beats. Opener Turn It Out, with Jesse F. Keeler’s screeching bass guitar and singer Sebastian Grainger’s simultaneously screeching, writhing voice, beset with copious amounts of existential teen-angst, was an eye-opening outlet for many a denim-clad hipster kid. You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, with its weird, semi-lofi, ‘pop-pills and fuck it all’ attitude, coupled with a reputation for furious live shows, ensured that DFA became cult legends on the indie rock circuit. However, all good things must come to an end, and with success at their heels, DFA split back in 2006.

Fast forward to 2014. Three years beyond the announcement of their reunion, The Physical World appears. The results are impressive, but does it capture the raw, physical (cheque, please) punk energy of their debut recordings? Not quite. Opener Cheap Talk is familiar fare, but its clear from the get-go that TFW has a focus that eluded YAW,IAM’s more ballsy, primal fare. Songs such as the scare-rock piece Virgins could pass for recent Queens Of The Stone Age material, with some crisp and clear production placing Keeler’s earth-rumbling bass guitar work front and centre. Lead single Trainwreck 1979 shows that Grainger’s lyricisms have also matured gracefully. Trainwreck’s description of moments that make Grainger’s heart wanna’ beat out of his chest, shows a more outward-facing DFA than a couple of greasy 20 somethings who, as they’ve admitted, lived within the band. In 2014, these two have partners, and kids, and the different lifestyle has undoubtedly impacted their songwriting.

TPW’s roster of tracks are great pop hooks, well structured and surely able to be crowd-pleasers, but at the cost of the raw, caustic immediacy that made their debut such a classic. Instead, the band seem to have taken a page out of the book of recent rock acts as pop (and awful) as Kings of Leon. Songs like Nothing Left have pop hooks with cheesy synth backgrounds and do practically nothing to grab the listeners’ attention. Gone is the unique sense of primal intimacy of earlier material, replaced with the overly sheened. Physical World as a standalone album is an impressive return, filled with killer riffs, but fans of DFA’s earlier stuff wanting more of the same should be warned that, this can’t eclipse their expectations, if that’s even possible.