Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Death: For the Whole World to See......

*Disclaimer: I heard this album for the first time after watching the wonderful documentary A Band Called Death. I shelved it after a few listens and didn't pick it up again until this post. So, perhaps everything that follows should be taken with a grain of salt.*

 There's an intense glee to be found from banging a piece of music out, as cacophonous and loudly as possible. Detroit band Death affirms this. Formed in 1971 as an R'n'B band, Death transitioned to sloppy rock music due to an epiphany at a Who concert. The trio, became trailblazers for the punk movement, predating it by six years. 
      Their first and only album, For the Whole World to See is a twenty-six minute burst of pure energy. The opening two tracks, Keep on Knocking and Rock and Roll Victim, demonstrate a primalness that is lost in many better trained musicians. Lead singer/bassist Bobby Hackney bellows lyrics in a pseudo-rapidfire-beat-poet-rapper way that would be perfected by Patti Smith. The tracks are at first exhilarating, but would truthfully be forgettable, if not for the fact that they are the first examples of punk rock.
      However, the next three songs, Let the World Turn, You're a Prisoner and Freakin' Out, make the album hard to dismiss as a simple dated prototype. Quite simply, they kick ass with a sort of virtuosity that the rest of punk rock would benefit from. The crushing drums switch on a dime to guitar lines that would find an easy home on an early Love or Blues Explosion release. In fact, Let the World Turn's intro is almost as psychedelic as punk can get while still retaining its punkness.       Where Do We Go From Here, my personal favorite, returns to protopunk common ground, but it's stops and starts salvage it from the forgettableness of the opening tracks. The album's closing song, Politicians in My Eyes, is about as political as the album gets, but you can still hear it's link to modern uninformed snot punk rant tracks. Iggy Pop must've listened to his fair share of Death. The album closes with an outro jam that sounds not unlike the Luke's Wall section of War Pigs. Quite honestly, it's the most compelling part of the album, as it manages to combine the punk energy and musical chops that Death possess into a condensed two minute block.
        It's a shame that For the Whole World to See is Death's only album. Time has not necessarily been kind to it, and one respects it more as a pioneering act as opposed to an actual landmark album, like fellow Detroiters MC5's Kick Out the Jams. So while it's influence is still palpable today, Death can mostly be remembered as band that could've been legendary, and instead became a curio. 

In a sentence: Its blessing and curse is its length. 

Listen to: 
  1. If you like Bad Brains.
  2. If you like Sabbath's Paranoid.
  3. If you like garage band nostalgia 

The whole album, for your listening pleasure.