ALBUM REVIEW: Death From Above 1979 – Is 4 Lovers
Photo Credit: Norman Wong
Toronto two-piece Death From Above 1979 originally formed in 2002, releasing their debut LP You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine in 2004, before subsequently breaking up in 2006. Almost a decade later, bassist Jesse F. Keller and vocalist/drummer Sebastien Grainger put personal differences aside and in 2014 they released The Physical World.
Following this popular release, their third LP Outrage! Is Now was the band’s first real breakthrough album. The record was bursting with personality, sexy bass tones and an air of roughness that caught the eye of a lot of music fans, with tracks like Nomad, Caught Up, and Freeze Me imposing the band on the eyes of the mainstream. Now, they are back with their new album Is 4 Lovers, and succeeding a record like Outrage! Is Now is certainly no easy feat.
From the off, opener MODERN GUY shoves its glitchy bass tones in your face, with Grainger’s modest drums and enjoyable chorus of “I’m a modern guy” echoing around the track – it’s a simplistic yet fun way to start the LP.
Lead single ONE+ONE is DFA at their best, with booming personality and some awesome riffage. The bridge in this track is our moment of the record, with Grainger’s drumming sounding absolutely fantastic, especially when accompanied by his mellow vocals of “one plus one”. Both members are undoubtedly at their best on this track. Grainger’s catchy lyricism of “one plus one is so romantic, one plus one is three, that’s magic” is as confusing as it is sexy.
The riff on FREE ANIMAL is one that Mike Kerr would be proud of, with Grainger even sounding vocally similar on this track. The song keeps up the high energy set by the start of the album, although the vocals feel as if they are a bit lost in the mix at the time, which is a reoccurring theme through the record.
Admittedly, that is a trait of the dance-rock sound the band are going for, but it would be nice to understand what Grainger’s talking about in the verses of his tracks every now and then, before being released into the punk heavy choruses.
N.Y.C. POWER ELITE PART 1 & 2 are two tracks that tell tales of Grainger walking through New York and mocking rich people. The throbbing bassline is very succulent, with an even more succulent tone that accompanies it in PART 1. PART 2 is a bit of a mess. It’s just 90 seconds of two people messing around in a garage studio, the track does not really go anywhere, it just floats in a pool of distorted mess.
TOTALLY WIPED OUT follows the themes of booming bass tones, estranged sounds and simplistic drums, which leaves a lot to be desired. The chorus is a nice switch-up but at this point in the record you’re waiting for a different sound, because it’s getting a bit tedious.
And a new sound is what you get during the second half of the record. GLASS HOMES’ jagged synths and improved vocals are more than welcome, in a track that gives your ears a bit of a rest; yet the song still holds on to the alternative rough sounds which make DFA who they are.
The gentler LOVE LETTER is a soothing song, which highlights the band’s ability to adapt their sound to something more meaningful than just in-your-face rock. The track is a very pleasant listen with its sensual piano, highlighting a more vulnerable side to the band’s rough-edged discography.
MEAN STREETS continues this theme of gentler tracks, with its throbbing piano and drumming setting a rather gloomy atmosphere at the beginning of the track. However, the song very quickly eliminates this vibe, as it explodes into a high-paced heavy chorus that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Black Midi track. It’s very unexpected and feels a bit strange and to be quite honest – unnecessary. The track proceeds to evolve into a guitar solo and then slowly fade out, leaving you a bit confused as to what you’ve just witnessed in the last two and a half minutes.
Finale NO WAR shows the band’s self-produced record arguably at its worst. The track fails to really entice you, and the last minute of the album feels like the soundtrack to a computer being hacked – which isn’t anywhere near as cool as it sounds.
Overall, the first half of Is 4 Lovers certainly has its perks, where the duo’s unapologetic riffs and nonchalant drums take centre stage. Although this does get a bit tiring, some credit should be given to Death From Above 1979 – they mixed it up and tried some new sounds with some working, and some working not so much. It’s an entertaining record that shows a band that is evolving, yet still keeping the same attitude which made them so successful.
Standout Tracks: ONE+ONE, FREE ANIMAL, LOVE LETTER
For Fans Of: Royal Blood, Queens of the Stone Age, The Faint
Written by: Joe Loughran