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Death From Above 1979 - Is 4 Lovers (Album Review)

Friday, 26 March 2021 Written by Matt Mills

Photo: Norman Wong

“Death from Above has never sounded more assuredly like itself than it does on ‘Is 4 Lovers’.” That’s the party line from the press materials that accompany the noise-punk rabble’s fourth album. It may sound like clunky salesmanship (because it is), but there’s no denying its accuracy.

The duo—drummer/singer Sebastien Grainger and bassist Jesse Keeler—first exploded from Toronto’s underbelly in a flurry of melodic hardcore and noise-rock dissonance with ‘You're a Woman, I'm a Machine’. Their second album ‘The Physical World’ took a decade to emerge and owed a greater debt to funk, pop and dance music, resulting in a comeback as catchy as it was fuzzy. Then 2017’s ‘Outrage is Now’ upped the accessibility even further.

‘Is 4 Lovers’ reintroduces Death from Above’s bygone instrumental screeching, but also retains the pop-rock vigour of their later albums, proving its press correct. Opening track Modern Guy builds the backbone, commencing to the sound of blinding static.

However, a funky beat and swaggering bassline gradually join. Grainger’s vocals buzz their way through the mix, in stark opposition to the clarity of his performance on ‘Outrage is Now’. “I’m a modern guy, in a modern time,” states a simplistic pop refrain.

Lead single One + One follows suit, the seething bass galloping through gritty yet palatable indie-rock melodies. Divided into two parts, NYC Power Elite is firstly a slathering of noise-tinged dance-punk, before slowing into a groovy epilogue. More abrasive tones are found on Mean Streets, where quaint piano notes suddenly explode into ranting, screams and all-consuming discordance.

‘Is 4 Lovers’ is as allegiant to radio rock as it is noise. Though that means it can be marketed as the Death-from-Above-iest Death from Above release yet, there’s also the  stench of compromise. As a middle ground between old and new, it isn’t as harsh as their debut, nor is it as joyous as ‘Outrage Is Now’. For the first time ever, it feels like they haven’t made a great stride forward.

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