Given the commercial success of Royal Blood’s self-entitled debut album, it’s a wonder Death From Above 1979’s second LP failed to attract the same attention. After all, the tried-and-tested combination of driven bass, drums and vocals are all there. Both albums were released in the same summer. So, what went wrong?
First of all, it should be established that The Physical World is not a bad album. On the contrary, it offers a finely packaged riff-rock album. ‘Cheap Talk’, the album opener, is full of dark bass leads, impassioned vocals and upbeat drumming, encapsulating everything that’s good about Death From Above 1979. ‘Right on Frankenstein’ offers a similar sound, as do ‘Trainwreck 1979’ and ‘Nothing Left’. The problem, perhaps, with The Physical World is that it’s all a bit tedious. Once you get past the initial phwoar of the rawness of the band, you realise most of the songs lack any really memorable choruses or verses.
‘White is Red’ sits right in the middle of the album and offers a welcome breather from the relentless sound of Death From Above 1979
Where Royal Blood were able to use their sound as a platform for catchy, memorable songs, Death From Above 1979 appear to rely too heavily on their sound at the cost of the songs themselves. For instance, Virgins has a cool riff, but after that the song trails off into mediocrity. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of The Kills who lack the song-writing finesse to turn their great riffs into great songs. ‘Trainwreck 1979’, for instance, is all a bit lyrically cliché. Sebastien Grainger sings “I was born on a highway in a trainwreck” trying to sound rock ‘n’ roll, and he does just that – sounds like a man trying to sound rock ‘n’ roll. It all sounds a bit of a put-on.
‘White is Red’ sits right in the middle of the album and offers a welcome breather from the relentless sound of Death From Above 1979. Whilst it retains the band’s instantly recognizable sound, what sets it apart is the slower tempo, varied dynamics and pacing. It doesn’t start at 200 hundred miles per hour and then retain that speed like many other tracks on the album. Rather, it builds up to a catchy chorus using clever verses, backing vocals and good song structure. You get the impression that if the band had used this more sophisticated approach to the whole album, we would be looking at a more enjoyable end product.
there are individual criticisms to be made, but if you listen to any one song off the album, the chances are you’ll like it
The Physical World is a great collection of riff-rock songs. Of course, there are individual criticisms to be made, but if you listen to any one song off the album, the chances are you’ll like it. But when you try and listen to the album as a whole, song after song (with the exception of ‘White is Red’) they all offer the same thing. It’s definitely worth a listen, especially for fans of Royal Blood looking for their next injection of heavy bass rock.
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