Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger met in prison. That might go a little way toward explaining how two dudes from Toronto with only a bass, a drum kit and a few synths could make such monumental fucking racket. Then again, that might have absolutely nothing to do with it. The genius of Death From Above 1979’s caterwauling debut LP, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, might be precisely that it leaves no room for explanation. These guys assert themselves on an unprecedented level.
You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine sounds as big as the first time you heard John Bonham’s drumming on “When the Levee Breaks” or Kevin Shields’s guitar on My Blood Valentine’s Loveless. From the screeching bass riff that opens lead track “Turn It Out” to the honey-drip sexuality of closer “Sexy Results,” Grainger’s skins and Keeler’s bass deal out the riffage with gear-shifting efficiency, each hook taking off where the last one left off as their reckless rock machine takes another tight corner.
Death From Above 1979’s passion for the riff is matched only by their passion for skirt. “Romantic Rights” and “Blood on Our Hands” are sordid little tales, steaming with the delicious stench of sexual indiscretion and Keeler’s gut-busting fuzz — a four-string sound that consistently channels the rush of a few stolen moments in a broom closet or a backseat. And while Grainger’s banshee vocal style may be a bit more familiar, it is certainly no less affecting. On “Pull Out,” a song that leaves nothing to the imagination, you can just see Grainger’s neck muscles straining as he whoops and hollers his way through another sweaty night.
You’re a Woman may suffer a bit from a lack of dynamism — the duo’s feral machismo stays set on kill for each of the record’s brutal eleven tracks — but at only thirty-five minutes, Death From Above 1979’s debut is a meal you can finish without ruining your appetite for dessert. So while we may hope that future efforts expand such a singular sound and keep our boys a pace ahead of the “gimmick” label that so often dogs rock duos of their sort, we should be thankful these (yes) fearless Canadians have set the bar so high so early with so little.