Death from Above 1979’s latest LP, Is 4 Lovers, is an explosive return to form. The brash Canadian duo’s expressive return is accompanied by a scrutinizing look at who’s dancing and why. On their fourth record, Death from Above 1979 confidently emerges from the shadow of their disco forefathers with a hauntingly clear discourse. Is 4 Lovers, despite it’s flaws, is an intensely transparent and groovy record. It seems the Sabbath-influenced punks have found room to comfortably extend beyond their own boundaries, fully embracing disco, emo and folk without compromising density. Lovers is very much their most mature offering since their gargantuan appearance in 2002. And don’t be mistaken by the title, the wistful romantics from You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine are still fading away. While not as grumpy as Outrage! Is Now, Is 4 Lovers wanders into political territory more so than romance.
Album opener “Modern Guy” screeches into existence with a raising set of notes, immediately backed by Sebastien Grainger’s heartpounding drums. The climbing arpeggios twirl behind the stripped down dissection of an unraveling world. Here, Grainger distances himself from the pessimism of Outrage!, “You can change the world if you change you”. Death from Above’s synergy has also improved, as they often fill the room twice over with faded harmonies and crisp synth runs. “One + One” chugs along with a determination only found decades in. Clearly they liken themselves to freerange critters mentioned on “Free Animal” as frontman Grainger expresses, “I see no walls at all.”
At the heart of the record is Death from Above 1979’s poppy version of “eat the rich”. The sarcastic approach of “N.Y.C. Power Elite Part 1” allows the track to breath a little without it losing any of it’s venom. Grainger summarizes the class war succinctly as his tone shifts, “I haven’t carried cash since 9/11”. “N.Y.C. Power Elite Part 2” is the noisier, angrier sibling. Frequently on Is 4 Lovers, Jesse F. Keeler blurs the lines where his bass ends and the synthesizer begins. His screeching lead tones, often which can be mistaken for guitars, slice through tracks like a buzzsaw. “Mean Streets” is another exercise in subversion, one that’s firmly set in the “so weird it works” category. Momentum only drags once during the overlong “Love Letters”. Its placing after the equally dreamy “Glass House” makes for a troublesome pairing. However, the expansive “No War” functions as a nice closer and more than makes up for it.