(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, July 13, 2009

CD review - Death From Above 1979, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine

Another recommendation from a friend (thanks, Steve).

Death From Above 1979 were an interesting duo out of Toronto, with Jesse F Keeler on bass and synthesizers and Sebastien Grainger on drums and vocals. They officially called it quits in 2006. You're a Woman, I'm a Machine was their first full length album. It's hard to believe this thick, grungy bit of hard rock excess was delivered without the benefit of 6 string guitars. The sound is defined by straight ahead drums, heavily distorted bass, compressed vocals, and occasional keyboards. The bass sounds like Keeler used a harmonizer or octave pedal along with a heavy amp distortion. The bass tone is full enough that it gives a sense of power chords and guitars playing heavy metal riffs. Sometimes this has the simple retro style of Black Sabbath, other times it sounds like sped up Soundgarden or Mudhoney. Grainger's vocals remind me of T. Rex's Marc Bolan with elements of more modern singers like Perry Farrell. The heavy compression make them sound thinner and distant.

There's no real theme across the eleven songs that make up You're a Woman, I'm a Machine. It's a lot of great headbanger action with consistently interesting melodic lines. The tunes are generally fairly up tempo without turning into thrash. There are no bad songs, but there were a few standout tracks.

I can't quite place what Blood on Our Hands reminds me of. Maybe it's a bit of AC DC's You Shook Me All Night Long. The bass and drums start out tightly coupled, but by the bridge, the bass is twinning the vocal line. This technique adds intensity; they use it throughout the album. The song ends with a break, then an odd sampled drum with a simple keyboard line. This is confusing because it doesn't even serve as a reasonable intro to the next song.

Black History Month has a staccato bass line with some interesting melodic transitions. In this song, the vocal sounds like Beck and maybe a little bit of Robert Plant in the chorus. There's tension and foreboding. The song has a perfect balance between the riffs, the steady drumbeat and the vocals.

Trippy, psychedelic lyrics drive Little Girl, but a driving chop borrowed from Black Sabbath's Paranoid overwhelms any hint of flakiness. This song is a great example of that Marc Bolan vocal sound. Before and during the last bridge (around 2:48), there are some short, fun fill breaks at the end of each musical phrase while the whole section is covered with a wash of ride cymbal. The song builds complexity at the end just before a sudden stop.

Hard rock, hard beats, and heavy bass. In honor of their Canadian nationality, I'll pair this with a pitcher of Molson's.

1 comment:

  1. Great review. One of my favorite bands and good to see a review of it