I never thought I’d get to experience a bona fide reunion tour while I was still in my ‘20s. But if it was going to happen for anyone, it would be for Death From Above 1979.
The duo never seemed comfortable, let alone excited, by the fame that followed their 2004 now-classic You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. According the liner notes I pored over as a teen, that one also took them a decade to make. And when the record was finally ready to come out, the two weren't really interested in still being a band. Sebastien Grainger and Jesse Keeler might be more suited for creative spurts than a lasting career together.
Maybe they'd rather be doing something else, but after a decade of sporadic touring and only two records they have something many artists would kill for — a guaranteed draw.
Metropolis is packed with a cross-section of indie kids and leather jackets, and the remnants of what would have been called emo when these guys last broke up. Ten years later the band is still thrashy and angsty, and their fans haven’t aged much.
From the first maniacal pick scrapes of “Romantic Rights” (recorded when Napster was still a thing) to this much-hyped tour, they’re still making people stop and say ‘wait — a bass can do that?’
The main difference is back then they were an unknown two-piece, something fresh when “collectives” were the hip thing in Canada. Now, they’re Canadian indie rock superstars. That image of Grainger and Keeler with their elephant trunks was burned into our retinas long before they took the stage Thursday night, the logo illuminated between them.
Their mystique only built in the years of their hiatus. In 2011 they tested the waters with some festival dates, and now they're back in full album-support mode, touring North America and Europe for four months.
Grainger in white, Keeler in black, they jump onstage after their army of roadies have cleared the area. Keeler’s synthesizer sports a sticker reading in large black lettering: “Don’t steal. The government hates competition.”
The crowd goes nuts a second into You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine opener “Turn it Out”, and the moshy madness continues as they move into The Physical World’s opener “Cheap Talk”. They continue to ping-pong between the two records throughout their set. Things just get sweatier, and spill-ier, as they power through while the low end rattles our teeth.
Everyone is just as excited about the new stuff as the “classics” and that really shouldn’t be surprising, considering how similar the two records are. The Physical World can’t really be called a “mature” record, even if Sebastien’s indie pop solo tendencies have seeped into tracks like “Trainwreck 1979”. The work ethic seems to be the same as it has always been — fight for a decade and eventually put out a record both heavy and dancey enough to demand our attention.
Even if Grainger can’t hope to hit the high notes in “Trainwreck 1979” live, the surrounding energy and fandom forgives him in an instant.
I don’t think “growth” is the right word for what these guys have gone through. Grainger jokes about a MSTRKRFT song, playfully asking Keeler why he couldn’t be in that band. He tells us we better cheer loud, or they’re not coming back again.
Whatever their relationship is, it’s pretty clear that mutual love is not what’s bringing them together. But that doesn’t really matter; they’ve achieved icon status. Those elephant noses will follow them for the rest of their lives, whether they keep playing together or not.