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Saturday, 15 September 2012

Death From Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine (2004)

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is easily one of the best sports games released on the PS1. A few friends and I owned the game, and we would often go around each others’ houses, memory cards in tow, to load up our custom characters and play against each other on one of the multiplayer options called Horse. The aim of Horse was simple: you had to score a higher combo than your opponent in a fixed amount of time. This was easier said than done because some of my friends were far too good at the game that it made competing, in any real sense of the word, impossible. I was pretty good at the game: I’d unlocked all of the secret levels and characters, and beaten all of the high score challenges on each level. But when it came to playing against some of my friends, I fell pretty short.

As each sequel of Tony Hawk’s came out, I would happily hand over my money and enjoy it until the next game in the series was released. However, four years later, by the time Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland came out I had all but lost interest in the series. I felt that the games had become a bit stupid. The popularity of Jackass meant that the games became “edgier”, and featured stunts and people from the show. The formula was stale, and the soundtrack of nu-metal, emo and skater-punk annoyed the hell out of me. However, one of the songs on the game’s soundtrack that stood out was ‘Little Girl’ by Death From Above 1979 – a short piece of noisy punky poppy madness produced by a drummer-come-vocalist and a bass-player – guitars are evidently for losers. And after seeing them performing a chaotic set at Leeds Festival, I had to buy their album You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine.

Album-opener ‘Turn it Out’ begins with a quiet piano playing a slow death march in a minor key reminding me of some of Chopin’s darker moments. The quietness of the piano encourages you to whack up the volume, but it is a trap and your ears are blasted by a wail of screeching noise, hammering bass, and a thrashing drumbeat that would make Slayer proud. This is no-nonsense rock and roll at its angriest. It takes you out of your seat and shakes the shit out of you. It punches you in the ear and makes you want fling your body around violently with gay abandon. It’s noisy, it’s aggressive, and it’s awesome. The song kicks in, and you realise that this isn’t just Lightning Bolt-esque noise for the sake of noise, but that there are actually solid rock riffs and, dare I say, pop melodies, albeit against the backdrop of noise-rock. ‘Romantic Rights’ is catchy as hell, and loses all of the viciousness of the sonic assault of the opening blast of ‘Turn it Out’, and it starts to feel like this has more substance than your average noise album. ‘Going Steady’ opens with a hardcore punk riff, that quickly descends into discordant funk. It’s a very strange song, but one that you just can’t help but nod along to. ‘Blood on our Hands’ is another great song with machine gun punches of drum and bass punctuating an awesome rock riff. ‘Black History Month’ is the song that shows why Death From Above 1979 aren’t simply a noise band: the song is sensitive, subtle and quite stunning. ‘Little Girl’ is equally stunning, but in a very different way: this song rocks - it’s pop-punk at its finest. I love the bridge part of this song as the bass cascades and slides down the scale before breaking out into a moment of Oom-Pah insanity. The titular ‘You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine’ bursts open with a speed metal riff. By the end of the song, things are slow and methodical, becoming more reminiscent of Doom bands like Om, than the accelerated noise of some of Vice Records’ more intense releases. Album-closer ‘Sexy Results’ sees a disco-influence making its way into the music. The bass is still heavy and distorted, but the vocals are softer, the riffs are more laid back and funky, and bongo drums are added to the percussion. Once the cowbells and Clavia synths are firmly established, you are left without doubt that this is a full-blown dance-floor filler and points towards bassist Jesse F. Keeler’s follow-up project MSTKRFT.

This is an album that is at points nasty and loud, but is also very listenable, with moments of subtle pop genius. It’s an album that I am sure I will be revisiting again and again, and is definitely a keeper.

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death valley 69 said...

underrated album, great review. Also massive Tony Hawks fan, though bit of a purist - it peaked at 2. If you're on Xbox live have a look at the HD remix. THUG, and everthing after that is a waste of time.

Sirjohnabraham18 said...

The method was hard, and the soundtrack of nu-metal, emo and skater-punk aggravated the torment out of me. This is an album that is at points spiteful and noisy, but is also very listenable, with moments of fine pop mastermind. It’s an album that I am certain I will be revisiting again and again, and is absolutely a custodian. said...

Glad to see you're keeping this one, great album, I've neglected my copy for too long, must give it another spin soon. I also saw them at Leeds Festival, I was blown away by how much noise just two guys could produce!
I also have to agree with death valley 69 above regarding Tony Hawks 2, definitely the best of the series. I spent many a wasted hour on that one!

JC said...

@Sirjohnabraham18 - that's exactly what I wrote . - their set was mental, how's the blogging going? said...

Funny you should say that, I just did my first post in a month about Great One Offs, in this case My Vitriol's Finelines; I'd like to try and do a few more under this heading, the DFA album could well be a good candidate!

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