I'm going to be honest with you, Death From Above 1979 is one of my favorite bands. The innovation the Canadian duo brought to the drum and bass genre is remarkable. Jesse F. Keeler has been a huge influence on myself personally at a musical level as a bass player. His dance-infused distorted bass lines never fail to make an audience move. His tone is one-of-a-kind and cannot be replicated by anyone else, and he does it all without the use of a single effects pedal. The most impressive part about his tone is how he manages to make a drum n' bass setup sound so full. Sebastian Grainger is also an accomplished drummer. Although his playing is nothing spectacular, it does not need to be. Grainger keeps his beats under control, but still lets loose when he can. The lyrics are silly and fun, usually pertaining to sex, but what else would fit with Jesse's dance club bass lines. The band unfortunately only release one full length, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
, their debut Heads Up!
EP and a remix album Romance Bloody Romance
before calling it quits in 2006. Death From Above 1979 also quietly released a live session exclusively via iTunes in 2005.
The live session is a short four tracks long, but gives one a taste of what DFA1979 offered in a live setting. Jesse's bass tone is less refined when compared to the studio recordings, which may be due to the use of his Rickenbacker 4003 over the Gibson Grabber used in studio. Those with a careful ear will be able to pick up the tiny differences in the sound, but overall the live sound is what one would expect. Apart from the tonal differences, Jesse improvises quite a bit. For example, in 'Black History Month' Jesse adds in a quick pull-off arpeggio at the tail end of the his bass line. Small additions such as that give the live tracks more character over their studio counterparts. Sebastian's vocals are surprisingly excellent considering he is also drumming. Some may even prefer his raw live vocals over the crisp and clean studio tracking. The production is excellent for a live recording, both instruments complement each other instead of fighting for the foreground.
The four songs the band chose to play are all good choices. One of my personal favorite DFA1979 tracks, 'Black History Month' begins the EP. As mentioned earlier, Jesse spices up the track a bit making it one of the best tracks on the EP. Exclusive track 'Girl U R Lovely' sounds like a b-side off You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
, utilizing a simple staccato bass line similar to 'Black History Month' and a DFA1979 style breakdown in the bridge. Finishing off the EP are two more cuts from the LP, 'Going Steady' and 'Little Girl.' Neither of these tracks were standouts on the debut, but they work well in the live setting. The band could have easily gone with popular tracks like 'Romantic Rights' and 'Blood on Our Hands,' but rather choose to mix it up with two underappreciated tracks.
Death From Above 1979 unfortunately had a short run, but a good one at that. Live recordings such as this session are great snapshots of the past that remind us all of the greatness DFA1979 possessed. As one of the only official live recordings the band has put out, this iTunes exclusive is well worth a listen. DFA1979 had been known as a great live band, and from this recording it is evident that there is truth to that statement.