Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World

TOM BRAND watches dance-punk grow up and get a mortgage with Death From Above 1979’s long-awaited return.

Death From Above 1979 left their mark on the world 10 years ago by developing a unique brand of metal crossed with dance-punk; driven by a fiery unison of bass guitar, drums and a thick moustache. The band was doomed to die out before their time, leaving a cult fanbase that grew over time. The Physical World follows a 2011 reformation, and it rewards fans’ patience from the moment ‘Cheap Talk’ opens the album with car exhaust, shuffling drums and the odd smack of the cowbell. The plunge into rest of The Physical World, however, is an experience which may prove divisive for long-time fans.

One of the more apparent changes is Sebastien Grainger’s updated vocal style. He opts for a cleaner indie-rock croon, as opposed to the warped yells and screams that typified previous efforts. It’s particularly problematic on ‘Virgins’ and ‘Trainwreck 1979’, where if you stop paying attention long enough it almost sounds like you’re listening to Kasabian or The Rapture. Combine this with a more conservative approach to songwriting and you have a cleaner but far less adventurous album – easy to listen to but lacking in the intangible spirit that characterised their early days.

If you consider their albums in terms of a relationship, The Physical World would be the marriage 10 years on – safe and sometimes sexy, but overall more about slippers and tea on a Saturday night rather than drinking until the pants fly off.

And yet the album still features plenty of furious high-tempo moments, showcasing the band’s ability to operate as a duo without sacrificing any punch or a fullness of sound. ‘Government Trash’ hits hard with stinging riffs, snappy drums and unexpected yells, while ‘The Physical World’ may just be the best song they’ve written; an unrelenting torrent of metal-y riffs, synths and impossibly high vocals, before fading out with a melodic piano. It’s as if they’re replying to their own absence with a resounding “we’re back”.