Death were formed in Detroit in the early '70s. The band were made up of 3 brothers, David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney. They played the music of their time and place but were unappreciated at the time. Their music did, however, play an important role in the development of punk rock. David Hackney predicted their eventual importance shortly before he sadly died. A reformed Death began playing live in 2008 with Bobbie Duncan replacing David Hackney. The persistent wish from their fans for a new record has finally come to fruition with N.E.W. an album that perfectly revives and reviews what Death did at their most visceral and cerebral.
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“They’re named after something I never want to happen to me” - Phil, forlorn.
Protopunks Death never really got a chance to be the proto, considering that many of their early records toiled in release purgatory and came into proper fruition at a later date -- take the ‘70s classics ‘...For the World to See’ and ‘Spiritual - Mental - Physical’, which were only released a few years ago via Drag City. Listening to their new record, though, you can see why that genre tag has been assigned: these guys didn’t play the rock music they were influenced by, but its natural evolution into something rawer and even more direct.
‘N.E.W’ has the same sturdy hooks that made Death resounding, shouting out mindless but somehow deeply meaningful mantras over thick drums and totally classic guitar solos a la old rockers. They yell things like “Detroit rock! East coast rock!” over, you know, rock music -- ever heard of it? Opener “Relief” sounds like a more dynamic, spindly moving version of a Ramones song, played fast and relentless but speaking a more intricate language -- like Television but fun. ”Playtime” shows off the band’s knack for camaraderie with straight-up vocal chants on the choruses, while the groaning riffs of “Who Am I” play over gnarly, fuzzed-out chords to create one of Death’s most emotive tunes. The song’s got some good basic, 101 existentialism too: “Who am I, where am I, and how did I get here?”. Straight-up goodness, no nonsense philosophy seminar, this.
Death excel at what they are: a very fun and extremely tight garage punk band who roll through songs with a deep and abiding love for the music they’re making. That they’re still doing it with ‘N.E.W.’ is a wonder -- it’s good to know the proto bands can just be bands.
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