Death From Above 1979 make their considerable racket with only bass, drums, and the occasional Moog squelch assist. This isn't a gimmick--between Sebastien Grainger's frantic wail and the overdriven bass riffs of Jesse F. Keeler, the duo's You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
pulses with a steady, sweaty energy that's punctuated with arena-sized hooks. "Blood on Our Hands" boils dance-punk nearly all the way down, leaving only a relentless hi-hat cymbal, while "Turn It Out" and "Cold War" churn on double-time rhythms and rudimentary, yet completely effective bass runs.
There are hyper indie rock flare-ups, like in the Hot Snakes/Rocket from the Crypt yelp of "Going Steady." And "Sexy Results" is a flirtatious and amplified cross of new wave and Rapture-style strut that comes complete with a cowbell upbeat. Preoccupation with the opposite sex provides some of You're a Woman, I'm a Machine's strongest moments, from Grainger's "I don't need you/I want you" clarification on "Romantic Rights" to the frenetic late-album standout "Pull Out." Other highlights include the title track's layered vocals and wiry punk revivalism, and the subtler "Black History Month," which is a nice break from the record's consistently jerking pace. In the 2000s, dance-oriented energy keeps creeping regularly into rock & roll. On You're a Woman, I'm a Machine, Death From Above 1979 make people move by exposing the live-wire tension rock music had all along. --Johnny Loftus, All Music Guide
While it’s some days off being behind us, January 2011 will already mean something to many. There are those who will recall the month, a few more down the line, as containing the moment when a young British female artist actually bettered their award-winning debut (yes, you, Adele). Others will look back and cackle at all the turn-of-year tipped acts whose careers have careened rather sooner than expected. To this writer, though, the one shining music event of this 31-day period took place on the morning of January 19: the discovery that Death From Above 1979 were reforming.
DFA1979 burst into life in 2001, in Toronto. Three years later, the duo – Jesse F Keeler on bass and synths, Sebastian Grainger on drums; both contributed shriek-along vocals – released their only studio album, this very disc you’re currently reading about. It was (remains), to keep things relatively brief, an absolute belter. I covered it for another publication at the time and rewarded its 11 tracks, delivered at a pace that warrants a better description than breathless (but that will have to do – time’s ticking and this album doesn’t hang around, clocking in at just 35 minutes), with a perfect score. The pair played like their blood was boiling, their stylish threads ablaze; they hammer through their repertoire as if every effort’s a total throwaway, bashed together in five minutes to be tossed into the blogosphere ether. Yet every track’s utterly awesome, any could be a single. Every second is sexy, sweaty, dirty and desperate. Lungs lurch, bellies ache. Come the closer, the saucily titled Sexy Results (apparently inspired by an episode of The Simpsons), both listener and band is thoroughly spent.
The album made a relatively decent splash in the UK, charting at 84, with three singles breaking into the top 75. Live, the pair killed it. Then, silence, where before the roar was so deafening it drowned everything else out entirely. In 2006, fears were confirmed: Keeler and Grainger were no longer seeing eye to eye. Their relationship had collapsed. Both embarked on new projects – Keeler as one-half of MSTRKRFT, while Grainger signed to Saddle Creek for a solo LP. But nothing matched the inimitable intensity of DFA1979 – a band who, if The White Stripes’ stripped-back and amp’ed-up blues was Heaven sent, were clearly the Devil’s favourite two-piece rock outfit of the NME-branded New Rock Revolution era.
So it’s perhaps no surprise to see the pair reform – initially for 2011’s Coachella Festival, but hopefully for far more besides. Are they in it for the money? Sure, no band gets back together without factoring that aspect into their decision. But should you part with your pennies to see them, jerk along and then collapse in a damp heap, a tremendous grin plastered all over your glistening mug? Does Lady Gaga have a penchant for peculiar hats?
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