Wed Nov 10, Chop Suey,
8 pm, $8 adv.
Some bands careen into your life with the subtlety of a J. G. Ballard fender-bender and refuse to clean up the carnage, ending up on your iPod in such heavy rotation you can almost hear the damn player roll its eyes every time you press Play. Such is the case with Death From Above 1979--not to be confused with New York hipster-hit producers DFA, who forced this Canadian duo to alter their original, non date-specific moniker--who've completely possessed me, taking me on constant euphoria-filled bass-and-drum flashbacks.
Armed with Jesse F. Keeler's elephantine bass vibrations (and occasional keyboards) and singer Sebastien Grainger's drumming--he hits it like a one-man demolition crew with 15 minutes to raze a building--DFA are gathering a buzz more deafening then their output, blazing through distortion-logged rock timed to a 4/4 beat. The Toronto twosome have been granted royalty status by the British press based on a UK label bidding war at SXSW and on the strength of their new single, "Blood on Our Hands," a quick hitter that adds blow-out-the-speakers metal amphetamines to jailbreak rhythms. DFA receive constant comparisons as the speedier alternative to another annihilate-the-amps bass-and-drum act, godheadSilo, as well as "electro-futurists" Six Finger Satellite, but there's something poppier about DFA's constructions--and an American label that should help shoot this duo's exposure skyward.
DFA signed with Vice's record label, whose roster includes Brit hiphop champ the Streets, the Am Rep-ish, agitated rockers Panthers and '70s droners Vietnam (the latter two of whom accompany DFA on this tour). DFA's debut full-length, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine hits stores this month, and it already has prominent fans. "We're being interviewed by Bruce Dickinson tomorrow morning for BBC radio. He requested to do it," Keeler says incredulously from their UK tour. Iron Maiden's operatic mouthpiece isn't the only admirer from the heavy-metal world--Metallica's Kirk Hammett reportedly requested a copy of DFA's record, as well. Which is odd for a band more acclimated to disco balls than Headbanger's Ball. But that doesn't mean DFA don't incite serious mosh pits--as they did recently when an NME-sponsored contest corralled the band into playing a 20-minute set in the winning teenager's living room, leaving the kids "in a pile at the end of every song." "We have one of the most confusing crowds ever," says Keeler. "We should've been called Mötley Crüe in reference to our audience."
Keeler's musical roots are no less eclectic than the indie rockers, hiphoppers, and metalheads who worship him. He grew up in a West Indian section of Toronto and says, "When I think of [Toronto] music, I think of dancehall. People don't pick up on it, but dancehall is a huge influence on us musically. It's the rhythms and the energy--that shit's basically bass, drums, and vocals, too." Dance music is also in DFA's DNA. Keeler, who used to be a house DJ, says, "We always loved house music... and disco. Sebastien is really into this guy called M from France who has a heavy disco feel. Growing up, all my music was soul, disco, blues... I can't make music that's not 4/4 time. It's not in me."
Vice Record's A&R man Adam Shore randomly stumbled onto DFA by pulling their older Heads Up! EP out of Vice's CD review-discard bin. "[Death From Above] sound like they were made in a test tube to be on Vice," he says, as the band possesses all the balls-in-your-shit aggression associated with the magazine, complicated with a double-time tempo.
"All critically acclaimed and respectable indie rock is fucking wimpy," adds Shore. "It's like there's this indie-rock establishment and they're great bands, but they're NPR music," he asserts. DFA are more NRA than NPR. "What I like about them most," he says, "is that I can't name any other bands that are so heavy, so loud, so noisy, but with no anger at all. The lyrics are all, 'I love my girlfriend and I want to have babies with her.'" Indeed, "My man wants to buy you something/he wants to take you out for dinner dancing/my friend wants to take you out alone" (from "Sexy Results") isn't exactly Lamb of God venom.
Sonically, though, DFA don't need to bathe their maelstrom in bile to inject it into your bloodstream. Between Grainger's wailing vocals and arena-rock beats and Keeler's blown-out bass lines, You're a Woman should convert even the cynics to the realization that Death From Above are a gift from the Pearly Gates of rock.