This was blitzkrieg bop, without the bop. The war on melody and swing rose up at the Sound Academy, where the bass and drums duo Death From Above 1979 did something akin to electric insecticide. At the first of its two sold-out shows, the recently reunited Toronto pair screamed, pummelled, squalled and otherwise went all extreme weather on its writhing audience. It’s called noise punk, which DFA does very well. And when it was over (after an ungodly 70 minutes), the only question was which one of fellows was noise, and which one was punk.
Youths have gravitated toward sounds that one-upped their parents’ tastes for some time now. “You call that music?,” Adam would cry at Cain and Abel, “why I’ve heard monkeys do better.” DFA continues the evolution, its generation blues a particularly fierce development, with angst-suggesting song titles such as Better off Dead, Blood on Our Hands, Romantic Rights and You’re Lovely (But You’ve Got Problems).
Sebastien Grainger, he of the dyed-blond mop of hair and dressed all in white behind his drum kit, high-howled his indecipherable lyrics like an Axl Rose who’d stubbed his libido. Jesse Keeler, more a Fubar kind of guy, thundered away on electric bass and manned a synthesizer for effects and sometimes automated notes. It was high-velocity stuff, with varying settings of thrash, metal and bulldozed rock. Its genre has also been described as dance-punk or noise-rock, in addition to noise-punk. Whatever – it weren’t no party, it weren’t no disco, it weren’t no fooling around.
The mural drawing of a headstone on stage had on it the dates 2001-2006, the original lifespan of the band. After a spot on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and one full-length album ( You're a Woman, I'm a Machine, released in Canada on Last Gang in 2004), the duo acrimoniously split.
The big-success reunion tour this year began with a riot-marred showcase at South by Southwest, continued with festival sets at Coachella, Sasquatch, Ottawa Blues, Osheaga and Lollapalooza among others, and concludes at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom next month.
From time to time at the Sound Academy, rough-housing among the crowd in front flared. But the floor was tightly packed, with more squirming, swaying and pumping than outright moshing.
After a three-song encore, the crowd – some of them pre-teens in 2001 – shuffled toward the exits. Security guards scanned them with Geiger counters as they left, or at least they should have. DFA had roared lean, furious and nuclear, and the ante for rebellious rock had just been raised.
Death From Above 1979
- At the Sound Academy
- In Toronto on Thursday
Death From Above 1979 plays the Sound Academy again on Oct. 28, continuing to Banff, Alta., Nov. 18; Edmonton, Nov. 19; and Vancouver, Nov. 20 and 21.