YOU’RE A WOMAN, I’M A MACHINE - Death From Above 1979 (Shiny Records)
Somewhat unkindly, I still tend to associate Canadian music with the acoustic folk explosion of the 1960s and 1970s that gave the world Neil Young and Joni Mitchell among others (not to mention that guy who sang “Summer of 69”). But Death From Above 1979 (Steve Stavrakis' Shiny Records site offers the witty comment that the name would equally apply to a Radio Birdman bootleg, had they still been going then) are as distant from that ill-conceived caricature of Canadian music as I can conceive.
Death From Above 1979 (the '1979' has been added only recently) comprise Sebastien Grainger (vocals, drums) and Jesse F Keeler (Bass, Synthesiser). The double actor, synth-assisted formula dates back at least to Alan Vega and Martin Rev in Suicide, and re-appeared in numerous guises since the demise of Suicide (a personal favourite is Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine which, after its cracking 1992 “30 Something” album, slid into the bowels of history). It's a formula that can be both invigorating (because the small quota number of musicians requires innovation to build up and round out the sound) and monotonous (because the omnipresence of a synthesiser .
In the case of Death From Above 1979, it's a formula that's applied with vigour, enthusiasm and ultimate success. “You're A Woman, I'm A Machine” is less a collection of songs and more of an aggregated 21st century industrial-sonic assault. Jesse Keeler's synthesiser spears through your aural senses with NASA-like precision. Sebastien Grainger's vocal has a strained quality that acts as a complement to the music (rather than an annoying supplement, as is so often the case).
“Turn It Out” reminded me of a time (in the distant past) when I consumed something with a funny stamp on it and spent half an hour contemplating the relevance of a range of irrelevant matters while housed inside a hat with lots of flashing lights. “Romantic Rights” opens like a car trying to start with an almost dead battery before discovering enough power to embark on a comfortable journey. A personal favourite was the emotional lament “Little Girl”, which relies on a part-Motorhead, part-early Nirvana, sort-of-Soundgarden riff with Grainger's vocals wailing emotively across the top. The final track, “Sexy Results”, suggests Barry White playing the title part in a Buck Rogers movie with the soundtrack conceived, written and performed by Gary Numan.
Death From Above 1979 are about to return to Australia for another tour (they toured a couple of times in 2003). Get along and see them – but don't expect a relaxing time.- Patrick Emery
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