Album Reviews

The Physical World – Death From Above 1979

Final Rating: 6.8/10

The physical world is tangible, engaging and sensory. That is the world itself, mind you. With the album titled The Physical World, Death From Above 1979 try to capture those very same descriptions. Ten years ago, this uncontrollable duo released You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, which was an aptly named album that combined the impulses of sex with the corrosion of failing technology. It was undeniably impressive, relentlessly infectious and unapologetically insane. It was so damn good, that people hang clung onto the elephant trunks of this duo for ten years hoping for new material. Singer/drummer Sebastien Grainger embarking on a solo career and bassist Jesse Keeler working on the electronic project MSTRKRFT, it seemed as though Death From Above 1979’s days were over. With a recent reunion and now, finally, a new album, this sought after pair has finally delivered the wish that many rock fans have been waiting for.

Is it really the album we’ve waited for, though? The Physical World removes the systematic sounds of the first album, and it drops the unpredictability with it as well. There are definitely some great riffs here, with Keeler’s ability to write an electrifying line still being exercised. The problem here, though, is that The Physical World merely coasts with you where You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine would throw you. I never wanted Death From Above 1979 to be people to agree with me; I’d much prefer it if they dared me like they used to. The album is catchy, no doubt, but the fear of the lack of longevity already looms even on the first listen. On repeated listens, I found myself falling in love with a few songs (Always On, Gemini, Crystal Ball, amongst others) and merely being okay with the majority of the album. I also noticed that I would reflect on their first album during the rotation of The Physical World: I was Don Draper thinking about the love from my past while I was with a new woman to merely cope with the pain of longing. 

I do not agree that they should have made a carbon copy of their first album, but I wish for them to innovate like they are very capable of doing. With The Physical World, I notice more influence of what is on Canadian rock stations now than I notice the duo leading you into a riot against authority like they once did. There is a large sense of doom metal here, as I can hear a bit of bands like Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard towards the end of the title track. When your riffs and fills are meant to be a spray of bullets, they shouldn’t trudge along like a tank like the aforementioned bands; This is death from above, not from the horizon. The blueprints of the Physical World’s barrage is calculated well, but the execution of the attack isn’t nearly as successful as was planned. We do get a glimmer of an updated version of Death From Above 1979 that works very well, with the track Gemini (a reminder of what an attached pair of musicians can truly pull off), and they do sprinkle the concept of what could have been in virtually every song. This is precisely why these harmless songs end up becoming sour rather quickly: The possibility of greatness is right there! To quote one of their catchiest songs to date, Death From Above 1979 were excited to push in with The Physical World, but far too quickly do most of these songs “Pull Out”.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.