Is 4 Lovers by Death from Above 1979 album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions

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Death from Above 1979

Is 4 Lovers

After 20 years (on and off…let’s gloss over the 5 year hiatus shall we?) Death From Above 1979 have been creating noise like no-one else. Two piece racket-merchants are common place now but back in 2001, when the Toronto duo emerged with a bass guitar, a synth and drums, the sound and vision manifesting from their minimal set-up was as alien as it was deafening. For their fourth LP ‘Is 4 Lovers’, the need to keep things fresh is the pair’s manifesto.

Jesse F. Keeler (bass/synths) reflects on the creative direction of their latest work “the fact is that we’ve been around for so long and when we started we were the only ones doing what we were doing, and now the format that we created has been adopted by many and sort of taken in easy directions or obvious directions. So the onus on us, I think, is to show that the format can be more than what we’ve made it previously, that we’re not trapped stylistically. Mainly just to challenge ourselves. We don’t want to keep doing the same thing. Then it wouldn’t be fun anymore.”

‘Is 4 Lovers’ quivers with a creative freedom, yeah it’s freakin’ noisy, as you’d want and expect from DFA1979, but it’s the way the duo manipulate their sonic assault into something catchy yet brutal, that carries forward the band’s lust to innovate. Kicking off with the jackhammer blast of ‘Modern Guy’ has you thinking, ‘is that a mangled synth or a distorted bass through all manner of gadgets?’ given the unholy scree that pulsates and contorts. Sebastian Grainger’s swampy drums, akin to slapping wet cardboard with a flip flop (in a good way) gives the album opener and subsequent tracks an organic texture in amongst the warped carnage. And then there’s the randomness of its lyrics “the propaganda is getting to grandmas” being the cream of the crop. ‘Totally Wiped Out’ has duo flexing their rabid punk muscles, with pulsating drums and frenzied bass riffs suffocating Grainger’s bellowed vocals. ‘One + One’ acts as a nice homage to DFA1979’s earlier work; it’s all staccato beats and throbbing bass, which all adds up to a sweaty dance punk you can shake your rump to. This lineage is felt in the buddy tracks ‘NYC Power Elite’ Parts I & II; in a deadly face-off between electronica and frenzied bass driven rock, the energy levels are kept in the red as the band continue with their funky bludgeoning. There’s some fabulous cynicism and baiting of the 1% to be unearthed as Grainger taunts the mega rich and out of touch with “they go up state at the weekend/helicopter brunches” as if to detail a scene from the narcissism heavy TV show Succession. You can almost imagine Logan Roy and his family of vipers whizzing off for another game of boar on the floor.

You’re probably reading this thinking ‘this sounds like business as usual for DFA? We know they make a danceable noise, what’s new?’ Well, you’d be wrong; when the band ratchet up the noise, it’s an evolution of what’s come before but still wholly fresh. When the noise is dialled down, that’s when the more obvious left turns come into play. ‘Glass Homes’ deploys with toy-like electronic bleeps and boops that are twinned with assorted percussion and the funkiest of drum motifs. It’s a track that bubbles with a plethora of nuances that coalesce and fragment as Grainger’s voice moans with a notable ache. Following closely behind is ‘Love Letter’; this is where the chaos of ‘Is 4 Lovers’ is given a breather in favour for vapour-esque synths, a theatrical piano line and a vocal that’s purred instead of puked. Capping off the trilogy is ‘Mean Streets’ where the personalities of the previous tracks merge before being decimated by a feral detonation of frenzied punk distortion before collapsing back to serenity.

Where others imitate, Death From Above 1979 continue to innovate – this album really ‘Is 4 Lovers’.

Pre-order Is 4 Lovers by Death From Above 1979 HERE