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Death - Spiritual Mental Physical

The Greatest Punk Band You Never Heard

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating



Spiritual Mental Physical

Drag City

Detroit is known for paving the way for punk rock in the U.S. It's the city that gave the world the MC5 and the Stooges. It's a lesser known fact that they gave the world Death.

Wait, Who?

If you didn't pick up 2009's release ...For the Whole World to See, it's still quite possible that Death may be the greatest punk band that you've never heard. For those in the know, bear with me while I give the rest of the world a brief history lesson.

A Brief History of Death

In 1971, three African American brothers - Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) Hackney - got seduced by the sounds of rock and roll that have lead so many of us astray. Like those of the era, their influences included early exposure to the Beatles and late exposure to Alice Cooper. Drawing on that, they cycled through a handful of names and sounds before settling on Death and a punk sound that was years before their time.

In 1975, they band recorded an album with backing by Columbia Records, but due to their refusal to change their name to something more marketable (again, punk before its time), support was dropped, and the recordings languished in obscurity.

The brothers went on with their lives, playing Gospel. David passed away from lung cancer in 2000, and the remaining brothers still play reggae. Then, in 2009, those first sessions were released by Drag City Records as ...For the Whole World to See, and everyone who heard it (everyone!) was blown away by an era of music history we all felt robbed of. Never releasing that album was criminal, but Drag City has set out to right the wrong.

Now, if you don't own ...For the Whole World to See, cease reading this review now and buy it (compare prices). We'll wait.

'Spiritual Mental Physical'

Death's 2011 release, Spiritual Mental Physical, is actually a compilation of demos and rough cuts that predate the 1975 recording sessions. And for a collection of '70s rough cuts, it's actually higher quality than some full blown releases I've heard from garage bands, but it's still wonderfully lo-fi and raw.

Some of the tracks are destined to be instant garage punk classics. "Views" and "Can You Give Me a Thrill?" have raw fast riffs that are instantly addictive, and are an excellent followup to anyone looking for more of the last record. "People Look Away" and "The Masks" are also great tracks that find the band lifting from their influences and developing a sound, and "The Storm Within" is just a raw, super lo-fi blast of sludgy noise.

The filler is even entertaining - the band flirts with drifting psychedelia ("The Change" and "World of Tomorrow"), and hammers out a few a few single-man tracks showcasing each member, including the blistering drum solo "Dannis on the Motor City Drums" which owns in its own way.

It's an album for garage punk fans Death completists alike, for sure. ...For the Whole World to See should be your first exposure to this band), but once you've been there, I will strongly recommend you follow up with Spiritual Mental Physical.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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