Back when the only place to find music you’d never heard before was MTV2, I caught the late night video of 'Romantic Rights'. It’s a simple but effective shoot of the band playing the song, but by 13 seconds in you get it. They groove. They rock. The bassist wears a white suit and a Jason King moustache. The drummer wears that Vivienne Westwood tits t shirt and sings. The album was called You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. The sound was bass and drums (before anyone else did it). You saw they could play. They were different.
Two weeks later they rolled into Cardiff and blew the old Barfly club apart. The album was barely out so no one had heard it, but by the third song the crowd were batshit crazy. They played almost all the album and then played it again as an encore – the audience shouting out which song to play next. When they finished Jesse Keller, the bassist, invited everyone over the road to a strip club!
‘Sexy Results’ was the only tune omitted, despite several calls from audience members in the know. When I heard the album the following day I went straight to the last track. ‘Sexy Results’ is sexy – period. It’s got a slow groove, a girl whispers in French, it is about making sweet love – not just sex. As pseudo French songs go, only Flight of the Conchords ‘Foux du Fafa’ that gets close. It’s filthy but in a good way. It’s the most different DFA song you’ll hear and yet the song that sums up DFA’s band ethos most perfectly. It ensured You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine was on my cd player constantly from that point on.
Three years later and our wedding comes around in north Devon. I wanted something special for the slow dance. The DJ claimed to be able to access any song in the word through something he called Spotify, whatever that was – possibly a mythical record store in Barnstaple?! So I tested his theory.
It’s the wedding day, it’s gone midnight and I’m newly married. We’ve done speeches, cut the cake and met the second cousins twice removed. I hear the DJ dedicate the next song to me. There are congos, then I hear the intro: bam bam bam bam urgh, bam bam bam bam urgh “Je suis un sexy results”. I grab my wife and take her to the dance floor to worship at the temple of DFA. A tune ago this place was packed for ‘Dancing Queen’. But now it feels like we are the only ones on the dance floor. I look around: we are. “What the hell is this?” an auntie cries. This is our wedding. This is DFA. This is ‘Sexy Results’. This is our dance.
Five minutes and fifty three seconds later of two people dancing at their wedding, of my wife indulging her slightly tipsy, caught in the moment husband, DFA ends and the guests enthusiastically return for (and I kid you not) ‘I am a Cider Drinker’ by the Wurzels – after all this is north Devon. My moment in the sun has passed. Like the gig in 2004, DFA happened and I was there.
By this time I was married the band had already split up and I thought my DFA listening experience had peaked with a gig and a wedding. Japandroids filled the void years later, but I needed some other groove.
When I joined Twitter a couple of years later I noticed the official DFA feed was still in existence, but dormant. Eighteen months ago it twitched into life with a stage backdrop, rehearsals, Canadian shows, then a promise of new music. I’m pleased to say both will soon arrive. The tour later this year will be fun, but for now I‘ve been granted a listen to their new album, The Physical World.
The thing you notice immediately is it is more polished than its predecessor, which you would expect as production techniques have improved in the ten years since I’m a Woman, You’re a Machine was recorded. The songs now show divisions between those that are either keyboard or bass driven, whereas previously the keys were buried in the mix. Grainger’s keyboards dominate the more melodic, accessible songs such as 'Trainwreck 1979' and 'The Physical World'. In fact these tunes sound the closest to anything resembling obvious singles material. Keeler’s songs are more bass orientated as you’d expect and rock as hard as anything from their debut album. Right on 'Frankenstein' or 'Government Trash' could well originate from the back in the day and they would certainly be at home on You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine.
The sense that you can still hear the old DFA on this record is probably the key to their return. When they split in 2006 there was a real finality about the decision. No one expected them to come back. Neither Keeler ‘s nor Grainger’s solo work really took off, but they never seemed to mind this. The palpable clamour from the fans across the world drove them back together as DFA to create music together. The Physical World does sound like a more polished version of DFA. The songs are there and they rock and they groove, so you will not be disappointed. ‘Gemini’ or ‘Virgins’ are tunes which ensure DFA is a rock band for girls as well as boys (I hope my wife is reading!) You will not be disappointed.
So Death From Above 1979, as I still like to call them, continue to be with me even after all this time. I now have a baby and we rock a little around the house to get her off to sleep. You could say she’s a girl and I’m a machine.
The Physical World is out now. Grab yourself a copy here.
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