Death From Above, “Outrage! Is Now”

Death From Above
Outrage! Is Now
WARNER BROS. / LAST GANG
5/10

It was only six-and-a-half years ago when Death From Above 1979 made their surprising return at Coachella. The Toronto-bred duo had only one full length to their credit at the time, but You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine ensured that their crash-and-burn style of dance punk would be remembered longer than they would.

Upon their return, they’ve been more prolific. 2014’s The Physical World was a welcome return, more in the sense that fans were glad that Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler were back at all more than anything else. If that album—and subsequent tour—saw them seamlessly return, then Outrage! Is Now is a mission statement on what the future has in store for the outfit.

For starters, the duo dropped the pesky “1979” from their name. Finally reaching a detente with DFA Records impresario James Murphy (who made his own return recently), Grainger and Keeler are once again using their original Death From Above moniker. With that has come a freedom that’s extending itself beyond a simple name change and into more cohesive songwriting. But, sometimes cohesive songwriting doesn’t translate to a fluid record.

Beginning with the fiery “Nomad,” DFA’s intent is to show that their sound is as heavy and magnetic as ever. The song, which features buzzsaw intensity with razor-sharp riffs and menacing dance punk, is as heavy as anything they’ve put out. Things pivot quickly, however, with first single “Freeze Me.” Easily one of the more pop/rock radio friendly songs the duo have penned and recorded, the nifty piano lick at its beginning, combined with Keeler’s distorted bass, shows that they have the ability to produce songs that could resonate to a larger audience if they so choose.

But there are elements that feel off. The lyrics, while an attempt to be noble, don’t lend themselves to timelessness. Instead, the whole outrage thing feels almost like unnatural political pandering. This may seem like a response to some kind of moral obligation to meet the moment, but here, it has the feel of an angry blog post. DFA hadn’t waded into political waters prior to this record, and may be better served not doing so in the future.

As they barrel through their second act, Death From Above continue to push themselves just as much as when they first started, which is commendable. That it brings mixed results is only natural.

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