Monday, March 16, 2009

Punker Than You

Early this morning I stumbled across a recent NYT piece, "This Band Was Punk Before Punk Was Punk." Needles to say Death had my undivided attention immediately. In the fine tradition of The Chambers Brothers, the three Hackney brothers are brothers. Oh, and they flipped off Clive Davis too!

I was smitten with Death before I heard a note. That never, ever happens. Bolting to iTunes I downloaded their entire 7-song catalog.

Recorded in 1975, but released just last month, Death's ...For the Whole World to See's is fantastic. It's the missing link between Detroit's proto-punk MC5/The Stooges generation & the later Negative Approach et al. All but one tune motors along at breakneck speed. Singer Bobby doubles on bass; his voice a dead ringer for Bad Brains' HR.* (More properly the other way around as Death predates Bad Brains). Bold enough to nick a bit of Zep, guitarist/songwriter/founder David, spits out muscular yet melodic riffs. Death's secret weapons comes courtesy of brother Dannis. His drumming is crisp, propulsive & he has a helluva right foot.

To the eyes & ears of the vast majority of the local scene, these kids might as well have been space aliens. This was a mid-'70s Detroit musical landscape that had Bob Seger (Ugh!) at one end, Funkadelic at the other and disco looming large on the horizon. Playing futuristic politically charged punk rock to an at best indifferent Motown club or house party crowd circa 1973 ends one of only two possible ways: a band gets mighty tough or it dies before its time. After three years of ever-increasing frustration, Death packed it in for good.

The stones music remains. Dig the "A" side of Death's 1976 single "Politicians In My Eyes". If it tickles your pink, snag the rest of ...For the Whole World to See from iTunes, Drag City's website or better yet yer local indie shop.

*After writing this I discovered The Chicago Reader 's Peter Margasak concurs. The similarity is that obvious.