Spotlight: Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm A Machine

Righteous reminiscence...
Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm A Machine

I might have got carried away. Reviewing ‘You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine’ at the time of its release, in the autumn of 2004, I said of the Canadian duo’s debut LP: “You won’t hear a more exhilarating, dizzying record for a long time to come.” I wrote something distinctly cringe-worthy about sexiness. I slapped 10/10 on it and called the set the best rock ‘n’ roll album of the year.

This upset some people. Nobody in the Death From Above 1979 camp, obviously. The team at 679, who’d licensed the LP from Last Gang Records for UK release, were made up. But a mate’s brother, he was pissed. He saw the 10/10 and bought it and probably still hasn’t forgiven me. He didn’t like it. When I was in New York, a few years after the album’s release, I went to the restaurant he ran. I’m not certain as I didn’t go around the whole room, but I think there was a bigger service charge on my bill compared to everyone else’s. Also, I’m not sure that it’s customary for owners of such establishments to bid farewell to customers with a middle finger.

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‘Romantic Rights’

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Yeah, cool story bro, no doubt (exact facts of which may have been altered for effect). Truthfully, I have dipped into ‘You’re A Woman…’ from time to time over the last decade – it’s been a mainstay on each of my iPods, keeping its place on the roster regardless of storage capacity. (And you’d be surprised just how often I do have to shake that selection up, even on a 160Gb Classic.) But I’d not paid this explosive collection a great deal of focused attention until word crept forth that its makers, Toronto’s Jesse F Keeler (bass) and Sebastien Grainger (drums, vocals), were to release a follow-up. ‘The Physical World’ is set for a September release – oh look, some news

So, time for a quick reappraisal. “Brutal enough to make your arse explode,” reads a quote from Kerrang! on the cover of ‘You’re A Woman…’’s special edition (a double-CD affair backed by remixes from Justice and Erol Alkan, and a couple of non-LP tracks). I’m on my second uninterrupted listen through now, and – while it’s fair enough that I do know these songs pretty well, which might be a factor – my bowels remain unmoved. There’s nothing going on down there. Perhaps it’s age, and I’ve just not noticed, and when I stand up I’ll realise that, aha, all along I’d been resting in a right mess. But, I think, I’m okay.

Back to my own words from 2004 instead, then. “Exhilarating”? Well, I’m smiling like a lunatic, rattling my fingers along to Grainger’s beats and mouthing the lyrics like I’m screaming them (on mute, of course – I’ve neighbours to consider). So yes, this is still a mightily thrilling listen. I’m sat down right now, so I can’t say the “dizzying” element is playing much of a part in the enjoyment process. Hang on, I’ll get up…

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‘Black History Month’

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(Pants are clean, thank goodness.)

…Okay, the only correct response when upright and in the presence of ‘Little Girl’ was to do a series of spins and dips in my front room, using the laminate wooden flooring as a slippery disco for haphazard moves. The result: yeah, I’d say I’m a little dizzy now, actually. Part of that is due to the head-rush of actually standing up – come on, really, I’m a journalist. But this music can still connect alright, with no little potency, with bite harder than 90 minutes with Lui… no, no. No football. No football.

‘You’re A Woman…’ is raucous rock refined to perfection – it was then, it is now. It rattles and shakes with pop dynamics beaten silly by drums that come on like a World War shelling of the senses and riffs that deal blow after blow until the bruises blossom and the blood comes through thick like molasses. What a beautiful mess it leaves in its wake, behind kinetic cacophonies like ‘Pull Out’, ‘Go Home, Get Down’ and ‘Going Steady’. It’s super streamlined – nothing added to a mix that resonates with real purity, with a soul scorched by stage bulbs and soaked in alcohol sweats.

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‘Blood On Our Hands’

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It has relative hits: ‘Romantic Rights’ rides in on a crunched bassline capable of starting a party at a bus stop, and ‘Blood On Our Hands’ is blurred blues-rock turbulence that tramples all over (much of) the best of The White Stripes. And, equally, there are lows, kinda. ‘Sexy Results’ is a closer of sinister swagger, but it comes across as a little too creepy compared to the blistering breakdowns that precede it, a little too slow.

The best rock ‘n’ roll album of 2004? In a year that also witnessed the release of ‘Funeral’, of ‘Sonic Nurse’, of ‘Franz Ferdinand’, of ‘Antics’, of Comets On Fire’s astounding ‘Blue Cathedral’ (a massive personal favourite to this day)? Oh hell yes. Carried away? That’s exactly how I feel right now. Ten years on, ‘You’re A Woman…’ still gets me shaken all over like few long-players can, that few ever will. So go home, put it on, get down and ‘Turn It Out’ – I’ll see you the other side of some righteous reminiscence. It’s worth those extra dollars.

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Words: Mike Diver

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Listen to ‘You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine’ in full via Deezer, below…

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