Under the Radar: Death from Above 1979

Photo by Greg Cristman | www.gregCphotography.com

Gregory R. Cristman

Photo by Greg Cristman | www.gregCphotography.com

by Cameron McCabe, Entertainment Editor

Here’s a band that completely slipped through our fingers.

Death from Above 1979 consists of Sebastian Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler – two close friends who met and subsequently decided to form a two-man band in the year 2001. The two (Grainger, being the drummer and vocalist of the duo, and Keeler, specializing in the bass and synth) don’t seem like your typical underground rock band but are hardly like anything you’ve heard before.

The band originally rode on the wave of indie and garage rock of the early ‘00s with other more notable groups, such as the Black Keys, White Stripes, and Queens of the Stone Age. As per usual to these musicians, their influence relies heavily on punk, heavy/hard rock, early-indie, and practically all ‘90s era rock. However, Death From Above’s inspiration is the only thing in common with these other bands since their style is so widely different.

This duo emphasizes the “dirty” in Dirty Rock and their first album “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine” is the band’s style down to its roots. It’s rough around the edges and bitter-sweet. With rebellious instrumentals and scratchy vocals, Death From Above’s debut is definitely a product of its time. A recurring detail in the lyrical work for not only this album but their whole discography is, surprisingly, a romantic undertone. Most of their songs reference to love, romance, and heartbreak, with the rest containing somewhat-provocative songwriting (save for the latest album).

Their sophomore album, “The Physical World”, is when you start appreciating the band’s phenomenal instrumental work. Listening to this album, I noticed that it had much more of a refined and smoother sound to it than the first one. It’s definitely easier to digest for those who are new to the duo. What really shines in the second record is the band’s faith to their style that had originally gained them the fame they received from their start, which is something all musicians often struggle with. Although, this doesn’t mean their music contains no diversity. In fact, the roughness of the first album is distilled into new

experimentation with their instrumentals in this one. “The Physical World” is most definitely a good introduction to the band’s style.

“Outrage! Is Now” is their latest and most experimental album. Ironically, I consider it the most accessible of the three records and definitely my favorite. The production value of this record is off the charts and a returning influence on intense guitar riffs and drum tracks from their first record return to combine in a punky response to the political havoc of 2014. The band definitely took a risk and reaped awards. “Outrage! Is Now” happens to be their most successful album. However, the band isn’t as nearly appreciated as they should be. If you asked randoms on the street if they knew Death From Above, it would take you a while before you got a “yes”.

Despite their small discography of only three albums, which is evidence of the effort and time they emphasize on quality instead of quantity, they deserve all of the attention they can get. Death From Above 1979 is definitely a “bang for your buck”. I recommend listening to “The Physical World”, “Outrage! Is Now”, and then “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine”.

Favorite songs: My Love is Shared (Demo), Little Girl, Trainwreck 1979, NVR 4EVR