After 10 years, Death From Above are back. Years have only added to the band’s classic debut, but this only makes a return all the more difficult and in a year full of musical returns (Neutral Milk Hotel, Aphex Twin, and even MF DOOM) DFA1979 needed to stand out. Remarkably they did so by sounding the same.
In order to achieve success with the band’s sophomore album the band merely needed to continue what they had started on You’re A Woman I’m A Machine and they have undoubtedly done so, with only the production slightly progressing. Songs sound more crafted and precise, and while this may sound appealing, DFA’s dance/noise-punk greatly benefitted from a raw, stripped back sound. While there are more big, heavy riffs, the sounds attack much less than on their debut making a much more grown up album.
However, while the sound has progressed, the lyrics haven’t. School, skating and virgins make DFA1979 sound as immature as always, but from a band of members in their late-30’s the songs’ mentalities come off as rather embarrassing. Even when Grainger attempts to sound mature and political, it feels forced – from someone who had forced to mature as time caught up with him.
Despite certain song movements sounding downright identical to previous songs (“Right on Frankenstein” and “Cold War”, for example) DFA1979 sound fresh, however. Their impact on music can be seen in current bands such as Royal Blood or Drenge, but rather that sounding like these imitators they are in a league of their own. For a two piece band, DFA1979 pack a lot into their sound, especially on such a short album, and the ending of the title track is arguably DFA1979’s best riff to date.
While this should have been a monumental failure of an album, Grainger and Keeler have managed to maintain an integrity that few can claim to retain on a comeback album. Although they sound more or less the same, this is ultimately the strength of the album: giving fans exactly what they wanted. Here’s to another album (hopefully not in 10 years time).