Wednesday, May 23, 2012

DZ Deathrays Flows Into Bloodstreams

As difficult as it can be to get past the gimmick attached to their 'death mask' album cover, the half-breed punk and psychedelic thrash put out by the DZ Deathrays does better than throw a few punches. They land plenty of them on their new album Bloodstreams.

The album follows on the back of their No Sleep EP released in March, and now the band has even more time in with producer Richard Pike (PVT). His goal was to make Shane Parsons sound fiercer and Simon Ridley faster, creating a bigger sound despite being a duo that used to be a trio in a past life. (They used to be in a band called Denzel, named after the cartoon.)

While some listeners might miss the early lack of discipline carved out from their impromptu start at a house party in Brisbane, Parsons (vocalist/guitarist) and Ridley (drums) do keep some of their genre-busting inspiration intact — even if they are too busy to look back. They sense the immediacy of their music might be real.

Bloodstreams is hard-working psychedelic punk rock from start to finish. 

You would never know it listening to the 13 tracks that make up Bloodstreams, but Parsons and Ridley are playing through as if their days are numbered. The urgency they convey on stage is real because they haven't settled into the idea that DZ Deathrays has staying power.

That doesn't mean they don't want it. Outside of being bigger, the album boasts a cleaner sound with much more diversity than their noisy roots suggested. Mostly, it pays off for the band. Parsons manages to turn down the angst in his vocals into something more restrained, even when nothing is restrained.

That is a change from the earliest days when Parsons said that they "like the challenge of making as much noise as possible with just two people." Ridley had mused in response that it's all about hitting the drums harder and setting the amps louder.

There is certainly some of that on Bloodstreams. But there is also something else. The second track on the album almost creates the illusion of a relatively relaxed band, even if they are anything but relaxed.

What Dollar Chills does best is balance out the opener. Teenage Kickstarters is closely related to their EP work, capitalizing on the band's ability to convey urgency. Almost immediately, the strident pace is recognizable as the minimalistic thrashy briskness that characterizes the band.

Later on down the track list, Cops Capacity plays much the same way. The two-and-a-half minute assault breaks down into a room-spliting house party chant. You can hear it in the words. It's meant to be heard live.

All in all, some of the buzz up (where there is buzz up) comes from the electronic undertones on some tracks. Dumb It Down, Trans Am, Debt Death, and Brains all make the case for that. Yet, those songs might not have the longevity of those being skipped over in favor of the most visible and familiar.

The tracks getting the least attention will have more staying power.

Listen to those first if you want, but there are better songs. Dinomight might come across as punk autopilot but the song's head pounding raggedness keeps things interesting. Gebbie Street, which is carried over from earlier recordings, hits on some of the album's best riffs as it drifts away from rap-rock and into a ripping crescendo. Witchcraft adds in the right amount of sludge in under two minutes.

Where the experimentation truly falls flat is Play Dead Until You're Dead. As a cool down song, it doesn't lend much to the music. The best part about it is the organ, but it otherwise it doesn't fit.

Overall the album works, even if some of the songs rely on  novelty more than musicianship. The question some people might ask is how long will the novelty last? In terms of the album, it will depend on the song. In terms of the band, it will depend on what comes next.

DZ Deathrays Zap Bloodstreams To 5.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

While their earlier work might play better overall, there is still a lot to like about DZ Deathrays. Parsons and Ridley picked up tenacity as much as music tips from inspirations like DFA 1979 and Lightning Bolt. They also worked hard to get overseas fast, something they never seemed to be able to do with other bands. The U.K. was immediately receptive; the U.S. was a bit tepid until SXSW.

Bloodstreams by DZ Deathrays is worth the listen, but pick your songs carefully. You can find Bloodstreams on iTunes or download the album from Amazon. Barnes & Noble will carry the physical CD soon in the U.S. If you have a chance, check out the Bands In Transit session on YouTube featuring the song Rad Solar.
blog comments powered by Disqus