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I feel the biggest problem with ‘Outrage! Is Now‘ is that it’s lacking the sort of enthusiasm that really drew me into Death From Above’s earlier work, from back when they were called Death From Above 1979 no less. ‘Heads Up‘ and ‘You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine‘ are both excellent albums that mixed together dance punk and noise rock in a way that I haven’t really heard before or since (that’s also quite a call for recommendations too). The reason why I love those albums so much is that both dance music and punk music are both genres that have a heavy emphasis on making the audience feel shit. Now, on this new LP, it seems like Canadian duo Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger have toned down a lot of the dance, the punk, and the noise on ‘Outrage! Is Now‘. So, now, what exactly is left at that point? Not much, really. As the main problem with casting aside all of their once engaging enthusiasm and driving energy is that the music is just no fucking fun anymore!
The majority of these songs suffer from something I’d like to call ‘Arctic Monkeys Syndrome’ (just in case I’m not alienating everybody, I’m shitting on Arctic Monkeys’ recent material too). Stemming from that syndrome I just made up, Death From Above have traded chaotic punk energy for clean-sounding swagger. For instance, this album’s third song, ‘Caught Up’, was the first time I really noticed this, but that sound is all over the rest of the album too. So many songs on ‘Outrage!…‘ are just so slow and uninterestingly deliberate. The title track has a similar sound to ‘Caught Up’, lacking any real sense of pace, but the worst offender, by far, is ‘Statues’. That unrelenting ‘dude at guitar store trying to impress chicks’ riff is so dull and lifeless I would’ve gone to sleep upon my first ever listen if I wasn’t busy doing my shopping when I first heard it. And that riff is all over the fucking song too! It’s the kind of guitar schmuckery I’d have played for my ex-girlfriend for two reasons: one; I knew she was horny for the musician types and two, the most important factor; I was really fucking shit at playing guitar. It sounds like Jesse and Sebastien, while on their hiatus, witnessed how huge Royal Blood (somehow) got and thought ‘This obviously inferior band is way more popular than us, let’s just do what they do‘. And low and behold, they did just that.
Another issue I take with ‘Outrage!…‘ is the distinct lack of any uniqueness in the production. Obviously, unlike our noted audio nerd and editor, I don’t know have any real technical knowledge on this, but I have enough listening experience to tell me that the production of this album pales in comparison to that of ‘You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine‘. As an example, I dearly miss the raw sound of those squealing guitars that were present from the opening of ‘Turn It Out’. There are moments here where you can almost catch a glimpse of the band’s past sonic tone. The main riff of ‘All I C is U & Me’ is a good example of that (even if I swear that’s stolen from something – I just don’t know what is it just yet). The start of ‘NVR 4EVR’ also shows off some alright production, at least at the beginning. Unfortunately, once the song really kicks off, it starts to suffer from the same boring and lifeless production as the rest of the record.
I’m not going to pretend ‘Outrage! Is Now‘ doesn’t have its highlights, however. The songs ‘Nomad’, ‘Never Swim Alone’, and ‘Holy Books’, while lacking the noisy production that I do love, are still very fun songs. Not too simple, not too complicated, and not showing off too much guitar noodlery, and they deliver much more energy and life than the majority of other tracks here. The tremolo riff in ‘Moonlight’ is also quite sick, despite the shortfalls of the rest of the song; those being the rest of the song. While none of these songs are the absolute barn burners that ‘Dead Womb’, ‘Blood On Our Hands’ and ‘Pull Out’ were (and still are), it’s good to hear Death From Above’s energy hasn’t been depleted entirely.
Look, it’s not like I utterly hate this album or anything so extreme; I just can’t help but think about what I’m missing out on having experienced better. These songs could do with some screaming, is my point. And boy, do I love that shit!
Speaking of shit, I’m going to rant about ‘Freeze Me’ for a little here, given that it’s arguably the worst song on this album and I want to have a little fun. You’ve heard of The Rapture, right? No, not the religious phenomena from the premium Nic Cage movie Left Behind, I mean the band. They’re pretty great. You should check them out. What you shouldn’t check out is ‘Freeze Me’, which was somehow selected as the lead single for this album, and it sounds like The Rapture’s ‘How Deep is Your Love?‘ and the worst parts of DFA mixed their DNA in a petri dish that was then sprinkled with Calvin Harris’ dandruff; excessively contaminating the whole fuckin’ thing. Don’t misjudge me too much – I love my dance music. I’m typing this all up while wearing an LCD Soundsystem shirt for god’s sake, but I cannot stand how insufferably twee this song sounds. The riff in the chorus comes kinda close to making the song decent, but ‘Freeze Me’ is the culmination of the worst parts of this album: the production is too clean, the singing is so saccharine it could be from any pop-rock track that scrapes onto pop stations, and it follows the standard, same old ‘quiet verse and loud chorus’ dynamic that this whole album relies far too heavily on. It’s like the album and the band has been infected with trends from modern EDM and shitty radio pop. Sure, some holdovers from the DFA79-era are present here, but man, I’m not looking forward to their next record if this is what’s in store.
How do you say that you wish a band would make music that sounded like their old shit without coming across like a “fan“? No, not a fan, those are fine. It’s “fans” that suck. Fans are the reason why the Rolling Stones still tour, even though they all look like if you wrapped them in plastic it wouldn’t look like a murder so much as the dried fruit aisle of a supermarket. What I’m getting at is that I don’t know how to tell people that a band’s old stuff is better (because it is) without being called out for refusing to accept that a band can change, can evolve, and can create something different. Of course, if Death From Above evolved into a band that I liked more than their early shit, that’d be great! But I’m not going to pretend that older (and better) albums like ‘Heads Up‘ and ‘You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine‘ don’t exist just so I can sing this album’s praises and pretend that I’m delivering a one hundred percent objective, context-less review.
While I was walking home from doing my very breifly aforementioned shopping, I figured out the perfect way to describe this album. ‘Outrage! Is Now’ is the girlfriend you take home to introduce to your mother because she’s respectable, she’s polished. Sure, she’s nowhere near as interesting nor as fun as she used to be, but she’s the girl you can show your mum and dad. Even if, in the past, the two of you have had some wild, crazy fun and seen some real shit.
2. Freeze Me
3. Caught Up
4. Outrage! Is Now
5. Never Swim Alone
8. All I C Is U & Me
9. NVR 4EVR
10. Holy Books
‘Outrage! Is Now’ is out now via Last Gang.