In 2004, Death From Above 1979 released their debut album You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. The LP was a full-on assault to the senses, a noise rock album that was bruising and riff-heavy but also maintained a decisive element of listenability and musical know-how that suggested the Toronto duo of Jesse Keeler and Sebastien Grainger could become potential icons of the genre. However, just a year later the duo split up, leaving something of a hole in millennial rock’s canon. Recently, bands like Drenge and Royal Blood have emerged as minor spiritual successors to the Canadians’ throne. Grainger and Keeler’s reunion couldn’t be better timed.
The Physical World doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. It isn’t particularly ground-breaking, nor does it really build on what its predecessor did ten years ago. Even the cover of the album – in which Grainger and Keeler are drawn with elephant trunks for noses – is uncannily similar to You’re A Woman’s artwork. On ‘Right On Frankenstein,’ Grainger even says ‘nothing’s new/ it’s the same old song just a different tune.’ But to some extent, that doesn’t matter. This is an LP filled to the brim with face-melting guitar riffs, overloaded distortion and thundering drum beats.
Indeed, The Physical World – to bring up a rather clichéd phrase – pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s not filled with spiritual soul-searching, glimpses of tenderness or even small flashes of experimentation. Whereas You’re A Woman occasionally showed off a slightly off-kilter melodic flair (the cowbell on the end of ‘Sexy Results’ springs to mind), The Physical World is much more interested in getting down to business and thrashing out short bursts of blistering, bone-shattering rock.
Admittedly, some tracks show that DFA1979 still have an interest in exploring their dance roots. Notably, opening track ‘Cheap Talk’ makes use of somewhat danceable hi-hats. ‘Trainwreck’ – despite being on the surface a very simple rock creation – does contain pianos and faint touches of electronics on its second verse.
The Physical World isn’t an LP that completely captures the majesty of DFA1979’s short-lived heyday. It’s an incredibly fun record filled with catchy riffs and hooks but is occasionally a little monotonous. Fans of the debut album may feel slightly short-changed by the tone and slightly disconnected themes of the record. However, The Physical World is a brilliantly utilitarian album that doesn’t take any prisoners and is seriously unapologetic about being an aural representation of a sledgehammer to the face. For that, it should be commended.
‘The Physical World’ is out on Caroline International on Monday 8th September.
Words: Eugenie Johnson