Review Summary: As great as their intentions may be, there's no dodging the feeling that Death From Above sound like a pedestrian rendition of their former selves throughout most of Outrage! Is Now.You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
came out 13 years ago already. The once uncompromising, irreverent dance punk outfit behind it didn't take long to make a splash, but soon dissoluted at what appeared to be an even quicker pace; and, had they remained dormant, there wouldn't have been any reason to point fingers at them. After all, Death From Above's debut record, if not spectacular, amounted to a respectable exercise in noisy, sleazy rock music, delivering an entertaining if not limiting-to-improve-upon sound. Said limitations must have played a significant role in the duo's demise, but popular demand saw fit to encourage their return after a decade of non-activity. What people probably didn't expect, however, was that, by 2017, the band would be presenting themselves like a watered-down version of Muse and Kasabian, or sounding dangerously close to groups that took inspiration from them in the first place - i.e. Royal Blood.
If anything, Outrage! Is Now
is more frustrating and annoying than it is underwhelming. If the general consensus was that The Physical World
pointed towards the notion that the heights achieved on the first record had no business being reached again, this release amplifies that idea to an even larger extent. Snippets of creative songwriting and inventive recreations of DFA's sound can be found on a number of occasions on the group's third full length effort, but rarely do they ever lead to fully fleshed-out and accomplished songs. The record itself feels overbearing in its repetition of ideas and general staleness, in spite of only being about 36 minutes long. The furious "Nomad" is an obvious but ultimately deceptive choice for album opener: its furious heavy bass attack and memorable wailing vocals make for a great, quasi-epic sounding track and an easy standout, but this unfortunately serves as no foreshadowing of what's to come.
For a considerable portion of the album, Death From Above seem content to either squander potential via atrocious lyrics, or pursue a radio-rock direction that, not only does the duo absolutely no favors, but also feels dated by about 10 years. Example A: "Never Swim Alone." Super Mario Underground ripoffs aside, this track actually comes off as one of Outrage! Is Now
's most captivating and exciting pieces instrumentally. The dirty riffs and almost tribal, pounding drums harken back to You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
in style, while creating a fittingly simplistic and raw template for Grainger to stretch his vocals on. But, of all things to sing about, the man decides to make a tongue-in-cheek, sassy, satirical commentary on modern culture and millennials (not my term), which in itself could be overlooked if it didn't contain appalling lines such as "Pray to American Idol, YouTube haircut so in style" or "Comment section: suicide." The list goes on. Elsewhere, the uneventful title track, "All I See Is U & Me" and "NVR 4EVR" all suffer from DFA's apparent tendency to shoot for anthemic choruses, but whereas there seemed to be a sense of spontaneity in You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
most memorable hook-based moments, here those feel contrived and uncalled for most of the time. "Freeze Me" is another good example, its piano line bringing a refreshing change of pace and building up potential, only for it to be tarnished by a middle-of-the-road, by-the-numbers singalong chorus that has been done more than a fair share of times by Matt Bellamy or Dan Auerbach. The band does echo some joyfulness on songs such as "Caught Up" - bolstered by its groovy, handclap-driven rhythm - but it almost feels like too little for a supposedly fun album that is ultimately too meticulous to serve this purpose well, Grainger's tepid girl-done-me-wrong gimmick and vocal inflections getting old and unpleasurable to listen to quicker than desired.
For a record so based and focused on its polished, bordering-on-sugary choruses, your enjoyment of it should very much depend on your enjoyment of its hooks. If you love Muse as much as Sebastien Grainger and Jesse Keeler seem to do, you should have no problem finding redeemable qualities in Outrage! Is Now
. If you, however, are more inclined to believe this style of watered-down, domesticated, radio-oriented rock has been done to death already in the preceding decade, you'll probably be left with a sour taste in your mouth by the time closing track "Holy Books" fades out, reflecting whether or not Death From Above's reunion came for the best. Even though there are fragments of good songs scattered around, they feel more like wasted potential than payoff for sitting through the album's most uninspired moments. Great as their intentions may be, there's no dodging the feeling that DFA sound like a pedestrian rendition of their former selves for most of Outrage! Is Now