A scruffy yet gregarious young man whose name I probably should’ve tried to jot down purchased a marionette at The Goodwill Store before making his way into the adjacent Paradise Rock Club for Death From Above’s Saturday night display. Despite his pleas for leniency, the staff refused to grant him admittance so long as the stringed toy — which he told me cost $1 — remained on his person.
I can’t say how emblematic this particular example may be of Death From Above’s fanbase. I can say I’ve been to a lot of these things over the years, and this is the first time I’ve seen anybody almost get booted from a concert for trying to sneak in a puppet.
Wandering cold into the world of Death From Above — going by their original monicker after a long, legally-mandated stint as “Death From Above 1979” — leaves a listener with fresh perspective, and perhaps in wanting of context. I was either too cool or not cool enough to notice the outfit’s breakthrough You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine during its 2004 cycle through the buzzbin. So I’m showing up to the party just in time for Outrage! Is Now — their second offering since reuniting after a five-year cease of operations — and I’m thinking to myself, “This band is Japandroids’ libertarian older brother who never moved out of his parents’ basement (although he could easily afford to do so), owns his own landscaping company, thinks cryptocurrency is the future, and used to demolish us all at GoldenEye on N64 back in the day. Death From Above is the that guy of music by Canadian rock duos, basically.”
Of course, that guy can be fun to hang out with now and again. He usually has drugs. Death From Above made no mention of drugs on Saturday (October 21), but bassist Jesse F. Keeler provided solos reminiscent of a kitchen appliance malfunctioning with shockingly pleasant aural results. That’s almost as good as drugs, I think.
“Have you guys heard the new Prophets of Rage song? …Just kidding,” drummer/singer Sebastien Grainger smirked from behind his kit. It is correct to mock Prophets of Rage, and even moreso when the mockery follows “Caught Up” — complete with a killer tempo crank up during the bridge — off Outrage! Grainger went on to acknowledge a cluster in the crowd who he recognized from an earlier trip to Goodwill. (It remains unclear whether Grainger went to Goodwill himself, or spoke with fans who told him about their own Goodwill-related plans, or perhaps both?)
The latest record’s title track stands as the set’s most charismatic moment. A programmed intro gave Grainger space to stand, whack some auxillary percussion, mosey across the stage, and saunter back to the drums in time to belt out the last handful of requisite choruses. For the most fun bit, you had to stick around for the encores. Grainger observed the chants for “one more song” rang a tad too specific, so Death From Above did three. Seemed like they planned on two, but the audience couldn’t agree on “Blood On Our Hands,” or “Pull Out” — both from You’re a Woman, I’m A Machine — for a show closer, thus mandating the band blast out both.
As a subgenre, kicky garage pop doesn’t traditionally scream “innovation,” meanwhile, openers and Death From Above’s fellow canucks The Beaches tweak their song templates enough to keep jaded listeners engaged without rupturing the quartet’s ostensible effortlessness. To give an example, for their first tune, The Beaches played the outro a few measures longer than a pop song outro typically carries on for, and it was good that they did that, ‘cos it’s a sweet outro. In another song, the lead guitar followed the vocals in a way I found kind of interesting. Beaches songs are a tiny bit weird without sounding weird, or without trying to sound weird, I think is a fair characterization? I’d dock them points for synchronized dance moves, but eh, it’s fine. Synchronized dance moves are fine now.
DFA images by Barry Thompson; follow him on Twitter @barelytomson.