Death From Above 1979 - Is 4 Lovers album review

Death From Above 1979
(Image credit: Supplied)

Is 4 Lovers

In an interview with NME, Death From Above 1979 drummer and vocalist Sebastien Grainger described the making of “One + One” – the lead single from their equally gruff and giddy fourth album, Is 4 Lovers – as a “karmic sequel” to the band’s early hit (and fan favourite) “Romantic Nights”. He explained that “it was just Jesse [Keeler, bass and synth] and I jamming, and my wife was like, ‘This could be dancier – y’know, a little sexier?’ So we conceived a child and then I went home and rewrote the drums. It’s a bit of a nod to our first record. It’s got the beat-du-jour that we used when we were first coming up.”

This intransigent sexiness is undeniable on the glitchy, groovy and gaudy “One + One”. But in a bounty of ways – and cheekily true to its title – Is 4 Lovers simply oozes sex appeal. There’s a piquant slick of funk and friskiness discernible at every turn, from the brassy, flirtatious oomph of “Modern Guy” to the warmhearted tenderness of “Love Letter”, to the steamy, slow‑burning back-alley swagger of “No War”.

So too is LP4 a love letter to the Canadian dance-punk deviants’ halcyon days – the production is decidedly messy, the guitars blown out and the drum fills either razor sharp or dull and muddy. And therein lies its charm: it’s intentionally imperfect to elicit the authentic sense of excitement their earlier works revelled in – the visceral, near-superhuman adrenaline one would feel watching Death From Above 1979 thrash and flurry to their hearts content in a muggy college basement. 

What makes it all click is that the refined lucidity of the Deathies’ songwriting, which over the years has gifted us tighter leads and more impactful hooks, isn’t sacrificed at all on the record. It’s a more simplified form the duo’s formula, but especially on tracks like the electro-flourished “Glass Houses” and propulsive two-parter “NYC Power Elite”, that simplicity allows each stylistic peak and valley to really stand out. When they leap from deep and emotive piano ballad to a brisk and battered hardcore sideswipe on “Glass Houses”, your attention is immediately locked in.

If you’re not already strapped in on the Death From Above 1979 bandwagon, don’t bother with this disc – Is 4 Lovers is certainly Not 4 You. There’s nothing truly revolutionary about the gritty noise-rock shredding or acerbic dance-punk breakdowns that pillar the half‑hour romp. But the duo don’t aim to reinvent the wheel here, and nor do they need to when it’s clear they’ve poured every possible ounce of their passion and fervour into doing what they do best. The only real downside here is that we’re not likely to see any of these jams come to life onstage anytime soon. Sigh.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…