Death from Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine

Format: CD
Label: Last Gang Records Q00902
Year: 2004
Origin: Toronto, Ontario
Genre: punk
Value of Original Title: $25.00
Make Inquiry/purchase: email ryder@robertwilliston.com
Release Type: Albums
Websites:  No


Track Name
Turn it Out
Romantic Rights
Going Steady
Go Home, Get Down
Blood on Your Hands
Black History Month
Little Girl
Cold War
Pull Out
Sexy Results



Death from Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine


Death from Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine


You're a Woman, I'm a Machine


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You're standing in line outside a club on a crisp autumn night, wondering why the queue isn't moving any faster. By the time you get within 30 feet of the door, the sound of crowd chatter and DJ music is interrupted by low, guttural bass tones, the incessant kickpedal explosions of a bass drum, and deafening cymbal crashes. After 10 painful minutes of waiting, you finally get into the building; by now, the sound is deafening, the full bass tones bouncing off walls, and but it's so crowded, you can't see where the noise is coming from. After carefully winding your way through the mass of humanity, there onstage, you see two sweat-drenched musicians thrashing away with a feral intensity, commanding the attention of every person in the room. One guy is on bass, spewing fast, distorted notes, while the shirtless drummer hammers on his kit and screams into a microphone. The way this duo, the first band on what will be a long, exhausting triple bill, is whipping the kids on the floor into a moshing frenzy, they might as well be the headliners on this night.

Seeing a Death From Above 1979 show is to witness rock music at its most primal. Barely one album into their career, the Toronto pair are already gaining a reputation as one of Canada's best live bands, and not only is the ferocity of their performances turning heads, so is the actual music. Mention the fact that Death From Above 1979's music is nothing more than bass and drums, and more likely than not, cynics will quickly spout the usual Spinal Tap jokes. After all, it's a gimmick that always seems much too minimal to work for a sustained period; sure, the bass/drums thing has succeeded off and on, be it Blur's popular single "Song 2", or the likeable Canadian band from the '90s, The Inbreds, but unlike other bands who sported stripped down sounds in recent years, like The White Stripes and Morphine, having just a bass player and a drummer in a band just can't work as well. Can it?

Whether or not a young band can translate such a potent live sound onto CD is always a stiff test, but Death From Above 1979's debut album, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine succeeds remarkably well. The band, who had to change their name to avoid confusion (not to mention potential legal hassles) with the New York production team DFA, have managed to record an album that offers much more depth from such a simple arrangement than one would expect. The primary reason the album works so well is due in large part to bassist Jesse Keeler; sounding like a coke-fueled Geezer Butler channeling Fugazi, his basslines are especially nimble, his fast-picked notes coming from all over the fretboard, from extremely low, heavily distorted tones, to more mellifluous, upper-register licks, to all-out dissonant screeches. The key factor is that his performance is so versatile, you forget he's playing bass, his performance boasting the dexterity of an 80s metal virtuoso (Billy Sheehan, eat your heart out), but without all the pretension. Singer/drummer Sebastien Grainger is equally strong, providing muscular punctuation to Keeler's basslines, but at the same time, adding some variety to the proceedings with deft rhythmic changes, veering from straight-ahead punk, to disco-fused hi-hat workouts, to fabulous conga breakdowns, to the ever-reliable, much-loved cowbell.

As for the songs themselves, they're surprisingly varied and accessible; fans of punk, metal, and stoner rock will be the first to gravitate toward this album, but there are tracks that have the potential of reaching a much wider audience. One needs to look no further than the explosive single "Romantic Rights" as a song that deserves mainstream recognition. Over Keeler's catchy, metal-inspired riff, Grainger surprises us all by spouting shamelessly romantic, shockingly monogamous lyrics that dare to spit in the face of the song's cock-rock strut: "Come on baby/ I love your company/ We could do it and start a family." "Going Steady" follows, and echoes the previous song's sentiment, as Grainger pledges, "I will never make you suffer/I will never hurt your mother." The brooding, contemplative "Black History Month" is even more unexpected, as Grainger eloquently describes a decaying urban community, whose families all move to the suburbs, musing, "Do you remember when this pool was/A great place for waterwings and cannonballs," adding grimly, "Hold on children/Your best friends' parents are leaving."

Still, emo these boys certainly ain't, as the bottom line with You're a Woman, I'm a Machine is that it rocks very, very hard, best exemplified by such tracks as "Turn it Out", "Blood on Our Hands", and "Little Girl". The album comes to a terrific climax with a sexually charged trifecta of tunes; after the propulsive "You're a Woman, I'm a Machine", the frantic "Pull Out" has Grainger singing, "I love my girl/ I want to get her off," but the song winds up sounding as hilariously rushed as a nervous teen, right down to the song's abrupt conclusion. "Sexy Results" gets downright funky, as Grainger sneers come-on lines over a pulsating, midtempo beat, Keeler echoing the vocals with a simpler than usual accompaniment, allowing Grainger's drums and vocals to dominate.

In a year highlighted by very impressive debuts by Canadian artists, such as Arcade Fire, Junior Boys, and controller.controller, you can now throw Death From Above 1979 onto the pile as well. Libidinous and testosterone-fueled one minute, sensitive and observant the next, and daring to employ a lot more than the usual punk/metal influences, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine shows that not only do these guys bring the goods live, but they also have proven that this sound is no gimmick. They're for real.

— 26 October 2004
AUGUST 04.2006


i know its been forever since i wrote anything on here. im sure by now most of you assume the band isnt happening anymore since there are no shows, no work on a new album, etc. well. i wanted to let you know that your assumptions are correct. we decided to stop doing the band... actually we decided that almost a year ago. we finished off our scheduled tour dates because there were good people working for us who relied on us to make a living and buy christmas presents and pay rent etc. we couldnt just cancel everything and leave them out to dry... plus i think we wanted to see if we would reconsider after being out on the road. our label was really hoping that we would change our minds, so they asked us to keep quiet about the decision for at first. well, its been quite awhile now and we are still very sure the band wont happen again, so i guess its time to say something.

we started as a punk band with pop aspirations and we met every goal we set for ourselves. a few weeks ago, the album finally went gold in canada and that was the final mark i really wanted to reach.. it was my goal to see how big we could become without ever compromising or changing what we did right from the start... and now i know. we did way more than i ever expected and i like to think the fans (you?) enjoyed it as much as we did.... watching us sneak our way onto network tv, big festivals and sports arenas... playing music that most people assumed only belonged in basements and dirty rock clubs. we played our first show in a living room on long island for about 12 people and played our last in the calgary saddledome for 12,000. ha! what more could i have ever asked for? ive been in lots of punk bands over the last 15 years and i played every basement, squat, hole and alley from here to eastern europe. dfa79 was the first time i ever really played on a stage, yet i really didnt change what i was doing from what id been doing in the past... hell i was even using the same amplifiers!

i never would have imagined that the wall of noise i love so much could have come this far. to see my silly elephant trunk idea become so popular... im sure its the greatest piece of graphic design ill ever do.

over the last 3 years of touring, sebastien and i had grown apart to such an extent that the only real time we spoke was just before we would play and during interviews. we both changed so much that the people we were by the end of it, probably wouldnt have been friends if they were to meet for the first time again. its a totally normal function of growing up. like how your high school bf/gf that meant so much to you would probably be the last person you would date at 30, ya know? thats where we got to. its not sad.

it would be more sad if we stopped changing and growing and kept playing the same songs for 40 years like the rolling stones. for me that would be a nightmare.

thank you so much for your support from beginning to end. thanks ache records for giving us that first 325 dollars and thanks last gang for taking us the rest of the way. thanks to everyone who came out to our shows, wrote letters just to say hi, baked cakes and made your own t-shirts. i kept everything you gave me. thanks so much to the kids who came really early to see us when were were opening for bigger bands... that meant so much to me.

i hope i have been a positive example and not a bad influence and i really want you to know that when you stop me on the street and i dont know what to say, its not because i dont appreciate you, its just not something ill ever really get used to.

thanks again.

j f k


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