Sound — 5
Death From Above (previously known as Death From Above 1979) is a Canadian dance-punk duo, which consists of bassist Jesse F. Keeler and vocalist and drummer Sebastien Grangier. The use of only these two instruments (with rare synth additions) was the most noticeable and evident feature the band was famous for. Nevertheless, DFA succeeded in creating sound, which is kind of typical for the band and even unique, though the borders of the genre restrict musicians' possibilities.
Their debut record "You're a Woman, I'm a Machine," which was released in 2004, hit the bull's eye, especially in the first half of the '00s when dance-punk/indie-punk movement gained strength, thanks to bands like LCD Soundsystem, Franz Ferdinand, and Arctic Monkeys. For example. "You're a Woman' I'm a Machine" contained strong punk and funk influences, and they were combined so nicely, that, all in all, we've got an album filled with incredibly dynamic, raw, noisy, nasty, and at the same time catchy sound and well-produced heavy drums. Grangier's vocals on the album were emotional, hysterical, and rather figurable. Though the lyrics weren't very profound, it'll be fair to mention that this album didn't need them at all. It was a great symbiosis of energetic music with energetic, straightforward and thus charming lyrics. In fact, we've got one of the best records in the genre, which is a landmark in the history of music, for sure.
Then the band broke up, and ten years later, in 2014, DFA released a comeback album "The Physical World." It was different from what the band was recording earlier, though it still contained attempts to save the unique sound of the first record. That was not the best album, but a rather decent one. The fun thing is, any type of music has its expiration date, but DFA refreshed sound with a slower tempo and less noisy material, made the album sound a lot better than many people had expected. Three years later the band has changed its name to the original Death From Above (without 1979) and recorded a new album "Outrage! Is Now."
And this album tells us a lot. What do we hear? It's not black and white. On one hand, we hear decent tracks on which DFA is still trying to stick to their own dirty, messy and funky sound (like on the tracks "Caught Up", "Never Swim Alone," and "Moonlight", which is the most psychedelic and creepy track in the entire discography), but on the other hand, there are blended and boring tracks which won't be stuck in your head even after 3 or 4 takes (like "Nomad" and "All I C Is you & Me"). There's also "Freeze Me," which is one of the worst tracks ever due to its behindhand electronic part and strong pop influence as if it's a cut from one of the latest album by Linkin Park. And that's an obvious drawback for the band because even on the second album there were no tracks which you won't recognize by melody. However, this album is the heaviest in the discography with the most distorted and fuzzy bass-guitar you can only hear, exploring the band's music. And that's good because this refreshing tendency is the key point, which makes the album listenable. Grangier's vocals sound unemotional, except rare hysterics on several tracks. And that doesn't add up to the good sides of the record. Still and all there are memorable moments, hooks, and riffs, but sometimes they sound excruciating a lot.
Lyrics — 4
Lyrics have always been the weakest part of DFA's efforts. We can take them intuitively, trying to feel how they harmonize with music (if they do). On the first record, the lyrics were emotional and emotionally presented. They were as straightforward as the band's music was. And that's why the album with frankly unremarkable lyrics has got widespread acclaim. On the sophomore record, the lyrics were more complicated, more creative, but, at the same time, more clichéd than ever. And that was logical and appropriate, because so was the music. But on this album, it's even getting hilarious because they try to combine thoughts and feelings are with music that has no emotional correlation with the content of the lyrics. There's no rage and aggression behind critique, there's no dynamic behind passion, and so on. Of course, on the track "Moonlight" we can feel the tension because the lyrics describe fearful pictures and the music is thick and tense, but this is a rare example of such correlation on the entire album.
Overall Impression — 4
So, the new album by Death From Above "Outrage! Is Now" shows us a lot. The band attempts to experiment with the sound and permanent refreshing. But they're hardly innovative. DFA are trying to maintain the successful sound, which made them famous but is losing its actuality every year. Death From Above aren't risky enough to leave their comfort zone on this record. They are still capable of writing good and decent songs, but they are much more capable of writing over.
For now, unfortunately, "Outrage! Is Now" is the weakest studio effort by the band, even though its predecessor wasn't great at all.
If the band stick to the tendency we all are aware of, "You're a Woman, I'm a Machine" will always be taken as their magnum opus.