Death From Above 1979 “Romantic Rights”

Death From Above 1979Artist:
Chris Grismer
Add Date:
November 20, 2004


Big shout outs to all my friends in music video land! It’s Andy Gesner and the staff from HIP Video Promo, here with another great video from an exciting independent band completely worthy of your attention. Jesse F. Keeler, bassist of Death From Above 1979, has this to say about his unstoppable rock group: “We wanted our band to be like an elephant in your living room.” That could explain why the Toronto duo gave themselves pachyderm trunks on the front cover of You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine – but it also speaks to the ferocity with which they sing and play their instruments. Death From Above is a gale-force blast of rock intensity, vicious yet remarkably booty-shaking – something like QOTSA in concentrate.

Notably, they do it without any electric guitar. Keeler runs his bass through distortion and overdrive and plays frenetically, while drummer and singer Sebastien Grainger pounds with abandon and shouts his vocals over the din. Death From Above 1979 adds some berserk analog synthesizer and occasional samples (a great flown-in flute break is one of the musical high points of You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine), and little else. Proving that six-strings aren’t necessary to a big, bad sound, Death From Above 1979 stands the recent no-bass garage rock vogue on its head, and consciously brings heavy music back to its elemental principles. This is a hard rock group that structures its music as a dance band might.

“Romantic Rights” is menacing, bludgeoning, stormy – but it also swings. Although the approach is straightforward and appears rudimentary, it’s a subtly complex piece of music. Keeler hitches blues riff to blues riff, and yet the groove still runs as smoothly as a Metroliner. The hollered chorus (“I don’t need you/I want you”) might sound like the thoughts of a rock and roll mook, but the rest of the verse contains some very nuanced reflections on a relationship. And while the tone of the song is relentlessly thunderous, the distortion and feedback cloaks a composition with several sections, including a frantic drum irruption that is nearly tribal in its speed and intensity.

The clip for “Romantic Rights” is every bit as kinetic as you’d expect: a berserk blinker of color, motion, and performance energy. We’re guessing that the members of Death From Above must have played with Lite-Brite as kids, because the video finds them playing in front of a backdrop that resembles the Hasbro toy: flashing shapes made from circles of green, red, and orange circles. White stars, red hearts, and green stripes dance behind the duo; they rise and fall in rhythm like a gigantic LED, and cast their illumination on the faces of the two instrumentalists. At the clip’s conclusion, Lite-Brite planes drop pointillist bombs, and a mushroom cloud made of spots of light rises before the black backdrop.

Keeler and Grainger are hirsute and compelling presences. Their long, straight hair cascades over their faces, partially obscuring their features. Late in the video, the setting changes, and so does the footage: suddenly, we are watching footage of a performance in a club. Grainger hurls himself at the audience with the aggression of a crusading priest. Beside him, Keeler stabs at his bass; we see the strings rattle and vibrate in his stranglehold grip. As frightening as Death From Above 1979 is on record, they’re ten times as terrifying in a live setting. This clip will give you a pretty good idea of the raw power the group can generate, so hold on to your hats.

Here at HIP we are teaming up with Adam Shore and our friends at VICE to make sure you get all of your Death From Above 1979 needs met in a timely fashion, and we will have copies of You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine for you and for on-air giveaways. Together we are prepared to do what it takes to make sure your viewers are exposed to the amazing music that VICE is unearthing (The Streets, The Stills) and Death From Above 1979 is the latest buzz band they need to know about.

The band is beginning a lengthy US tour on November 4th, so if you want to see this dynamic duo live when they visit your market (or come out to the venue to interview the band or obtain Video IDs), we can definitely hook it up! This is a band you have to see live! For more info call Andy Gesner at 732-613-1779, or email You can also visit Death From Above’s official website.

Visit Vice Recordings Visit Death From Above 1979
Visit Death From Above 1979


Paul from Power Play Jesse and Sebastian of Death Jesse and Sebastian
Death From Above 1979 with Andy and Paul from Power Play at Rothko’s in NYC – December 4 Jesse and Sebastian of Death From Above 1979 with The Tink from VidDream at The Khyber in Philadelphia – December 2 Jesse and Sebastian from Death From Above 1979 being interviewed by Power Play – December 4