Death From Above 1979: a look back (and hopefully forward, too)

by thespaciousherbacious

Down the rabbit hole I fell after the Housse de Racket concert. It started with the likeness, vague and superficial; Housse de Racket is a non-American two-man band that makes rock music dance, and Death From Above 1979 is a non-American two-man band that make rock music dance. Mustaches have or do adorn three of the four total musicians. That’s really about where the similarities end. To be more precise, the former is French and the latter is Canadian, the former is up and coming, the latter has been defunct for about five years.

Whereas HdR have potential and plenty in front of them, DFA79 hit an awesome peak with their only LP, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, an album that – after about seven years of listening to it – still rocks my face. Fans of MTV comedy show Human Giant starring Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel, and Paul Scheer, may know that the theme song is DFA79′s song “Romantic Rights” off of the album. You’re a Woman had everything condensed in a little 35-minute package. They carved out sharp, catchy riffs on a bass, and pounding, danceable beats on a drum set. Songs were never boring or drawn out, they raced and were gone before becoming stale, always leaving you coming back for more. Lyrics were blunt and in-your-face with the minimal range of sex to family – from picking up chicks and the act of intercourse, to mom getting a new boyfriend, to being a good uncle and childhood nostalgia  - that somehow offered depth where subtlety was not. It’s an album that I can honestly listen to three times back to back without being bored. If anything, the second play is necessary just to get a grip on the transient, ravenous thrash that just flew by you.

But here’s where the hole has led me – scouring those five years of what I thought was silence, when in actuality one half of the duo released a solo effort and the other teamed up with Al-P to form MSTRKRFT. Who knew?

Well, I almost wish I hadn’t come across ex-drummer and vocalist Sebastien Grainger’s solo effort. His signature vigor in simultaneously drumming and singing sweaty and frenetic are nowhere to be found. For shame. Other half, Jesse Keeler’s, two albums under MSTRKRFT are much more respectable, although following the all-too-beaten path of Daft Punk’s style. Even his successes in electronic-dance failed to resemble his most vitalizing and breakneck rocking. His put down his sweet-ass Rickerbacher bass (that he plays like a guitar) for good in constructing entirely synth and drum machine tunes. Or at least I thought he put it down for good.

After a  surprise inclusion on the SXSW and Coachella 2011 lineups, the band issued a cryptic statement on their website that would lead us to believe that it was no one-off reunion for shits and giggles…perhaps they’ve realized that together, even if they had their disputes, they were a prolific force to be reckoned with. They also played a festival in Brazil in December and, according to their facebook and twitter, they had been playing shows across their native Canada beforehand. Since their site has been renewed for 2012, hopefully it won’t be long before they grace our ears with new releases and US touring so a new audience can see their intimate and gripping live set. I know I’ll be listening to You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine until then, and I suggest you do the same.