Full-tilt, power-pop catharsis and ecstatic blaze-of-glory euphoria – catchier than H1N1.
Chris Parkin 2011
Very rarely do things improve for a band once they’ve lost a member to the great beyond. They’ll either call it a day or attempt to carry on fighting the good fight, only their hearts won’t be in it and the resulting albums will sound like it. Of course, this isn’t a completely water-tight theory. Just look at AC/DC, or listen to The Death Set’s latest.
The Death Set’s 2008 debut, Worldwide, tore things up like the Tasmanian Devil whirring across new-rave Shoreditch with Minor Threat on its headphones. It was a reviving, bull-in-a-china-shop riot of thrashing guitars, day-glo melodies, jerky rhythms, furious beats, bleeping synths, punched fists, inspired slogans and impulsive – nay, unhinged – shouting. Heroic stuff, basically, presented by two Australian outsiders (plus pals) whose dream was to tour their adopted US in a van. Awl-right!
Then, in 2009, one-half of their founding two-some, Beau Velasco, died from a drug overdose. Sad news, indeed. But not only has surviving founder, Johnny Spiera, kept The Death Set going, he’s managed an even better album than their first; one indelibly stained by Velasco’s death, but not weighed down by it. From the album’s title – after the anti-hero in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless – to the inspiring chaos within, the album celebrates Velasco’s outsider spirit.
There’s nothing sombre about Michel Poiccard, not by any band’s standards. Take opener I Wanna Take This Tape and Blow Up Ya F*****’ Stereo. It kicks off with Velasco’s recorded voice setting out the band’s stall from the grave, before the band launch into a fuzz-strafed anthem reminiscent of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, only played at warp speed and honey-coated in melody.
Beyond the opener the album is dominated by full-tilt, power-pop catharsis, ecstatic blaze-of-glory euphoria and notes of blissed-out poignancy, as on the frazzled I Miss You Beau Velasco and 7pm Woke Up an Hour Ago, which features Spank Rock. Producer XXXChange has helped broaden the band’s range from tin-pot to widescreen, turning up everything from the band’s punchy rhythms and mangled hip hop beats to a tunefulness that’s catchier than H1N1.
Ideas, passion and empathy are far more important than musicality here. Put this on after F***** Up’s last one and the effect is similar: it will lift you up off your arse.