Monday, October 31st, 2011
You're A Woman, I'm A Machine
Death From Above 1979 at Sound Academy in Toronto
Frank YangFirstly, thanks to The Grid for their preview piece on the Death From Above 1979 reunion tour which finally made it home for two nights at the Sound Academy last Thursday and Friday night. They do a far better job of encapsulating the band’s backstory than I could, since though I was certainly around for their first heyday in the early aughts, I wasn’t much of a fan. Some of their disco-metal hybrid was appealing and I dug Jesse Keeler’s bass tones, but it was generally too aggressive for my tastes and Sebastien Grainger’s vocals were definitely not my thing. When they announced they were splitting up five years ago, I didn’t give it half a shrug.
So why be at the Sound Academy to see the reunion? Mostly curiosity about this reunion which, even in the era of reunions, felt different to all the others. For starters, the response to it seemed disproportionate to how big they were when they broke it off, but as The Grid points out they were on the cusp of blowing up when they split and rather than see interest in them fall off a cliff as a result, evidently it kept growing into the realm of myth. Hence the high billing on festivals worldwide. Hence the playing to more people at home over two nights than they probably did in total over their first run. So curiosity, and also the fact that I happened to be outside the Beauty Bar in Austin, Texas back in March when they were soundchecking their surprise SXSW appearance – their very first comeback show and eventual near-riot – and it sounded great.
I’ve been to my share of reunion shows and most have had the sort of demographic you’d expect; mainly older fans from said act’s first go-around indulging in a bit of nostalgia with the mean age brought down a notch by kids who discovered the act in their fallow years and finally getting a chance to see them live (I tend to straddle the two). For DFA1979, however, the audience was overwhelmingly young – so much so that you got the sense if they hadn’t booked an all-ages venue, they wouldn’t have needed two shows. My theory is that those who’d followed the band in the first half of the decade had largely outgrown them, no longer running on the necessary blend of hormones and adrenaline, and instead these shows were being attended by those who’d been in high school or college when DFA were at their peak – see above about hormones and adrenaline – but had never gotten the chance to see them live. Until now.
And with youth comes energy and the jammed room was rather crackling with it as they awaited their hometown heroes to emerge, getting into form with a little exploratory crowd surfing to Iron Maiden over the PA and chanting, “D! F! A!” the way you might hear “U! S! A!” at a monster truck rally. With that as the pre-show noise floor, then it was no surprise that security had orders to be extra-vigilant and rightly so – when the curtain covering their giant “DFA 1979 2001-2006” tombstone backdrop fell to the floor and Keeler and Grainger strode out onstage, shit was lost (and so was their stage garb, with the all-in-white, bleached-blonde Grainger looking rather Jacob and Keeler playing The Man In Black, but I digress).
I must confess to only knowing a few songs from the DFA1979 oeuvre (even though it consists of just a single full-length in You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine and a few EPs and singles) but I don’t think that was a real issue as their aesthetic is pretty limited. Imagine grinding, metallic bass and drum riffing seasoned with synths and wailing vocals and you’re pretty much there. But what they lack in range, they more than make up for in volume and vigor. They pounded out one song after another while the crowd surged like a wave pool, steadily cresting with crowd surfers as drinks, clothes and three-finger devil salutes flew about. Early on it seemed like it’d be all business for the duo, with a “Thank you, we’re from here” offered by Grainger as the only bit of banter, but later on they got chattier with a highlight of the banter being Keeler’s response to a request for a bass solo: “every song is a bass solo”.
As mentioned, things got fairly samey to me after a while with the band offering sleek aggression and relentless rhythm in lieu of hooks – not that my head ever stopped bobbing to the beat. “Romantic Rights” was appreciated not only because its killer opening riff remains a high point in the entire DFA1979 catalog, but because Grainger took the opportunity to get up from behind the kit and wander the stage while singing, proper frontman-style. But even when my attention wandered from the music, there was also the audience to watch as they continued to freak out, head bang, what have you throughout the show. I may have been there mainly out of curiosity, but for many/most this was something they’d been waiting for for years and probably never expected, considering how acrimonious the original split had seemed. And for them, I’m pretty sure it was everything they’d hoped for and more. I get it, but I still don’t like the vocals.
Photos: Death From Above 1979 @ The Sound Academy – October 27, 2011
MP3: Death From Above 1979 – “Romantic Rights”
Video: Death From Above 1979 – “Black History Month”
Video: Death From Above 1979 – “Romantic Rights”
Exclaim reports that Elvis Costello will be releasing a live set culled from the Los Angeles dates of this year’s “The Spectacular Spinning Songbook” tour, which came through town in June. Elvis Costello & the Imposters: The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook!!! will be released as a limited-edition CD/DVD/10″ box set on December 6 – with price to match – and less fancy editions will be released in the new year.
Spin is offering a stream of the opening track from Noel Gallagher’s solo debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, out next Tuesday and showcased over two nights at Massey Hall on November 7 and 8. The Globe & Mail has an interview.
Nicky Wire of Manic Street Preachers discusses his Polaroid fetish with The Guardian. The images compiled over the Manics’ career will be compiled in a book entitled Death of a Polaroid: A Manics Family Album, out next month, and the band’s new best-of comp National Treasures is out today in the UK.
Exclaim points to a stream of both sides of a new 7″ from former Long Blondes singer Kate Jackson, limited to 300 pieces and due out December 7. You may recall a different song was premiered a few months back, but it wasn’t sold physically so this is her first “proper” release.
And Prince has announced two dates at the Air Canada Centre on November 25 and 26 as part of his “Welcome 2 Canada” tour. Yes he’s crazy but he’s also an incredible performer and if the “Welcome 2 America” shows already done are any indication, he’s giving the fans what they want this time out. So… yeah. Tickets on sale this Friday, November 4 at 10AM, ranging from $67.75 to $268.25, fees included.
Video: Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy”