Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Death Reincarnated

The music industry is a strange thing. One minute, you are popular or the next big thing, the next minute, you are forgotten and relegated to cutout bins (do those even exist anymore). Some artists, despite their forward thinking and ingenuity, either become underappreaciated genuses or legends due to their audio contributions. Death is a band is never had an opportunity to be the former and are now being noted as the latter courtesy of a compilation released by Drag City featuring seven recordings of the band from the mid-70's.
The Hackney brothers (David, Dannis and Bobby) rechristened themselves as Death after a stint as an R&B band and seeing an Alice Cooper concert. Along with the name (and their refusal to Clive Davis' suggestion of changing it) came some of loudest and hardest Punk songs to come from Detroit since the days of The Stooges and MC5. The band's first and only single, "Politicians In My Eyes" is, hands down, one of greatest and rarest punk songs ever recorded. A classic combination of grooved out bass, fast drums and vocals on top of power chords and a hard rock bridge which, combined, is the blueprint to what Bad Brains made so great. This single along with its b-side, "Keep On Knocking," have been included on ...For The World To See, a compilation consisting of the seven songs the band recorded at Detroit United Sound Studios in 1974.

Within these songs is the groundwork for bands like Living Colour, Bad Brains and Fishbone, whose sounds are just as varied as this band and like Death, each of artists were unique for their genre due to race and music combinations. Unlike Death, each of those bands found popularity and critical success as well as major label deals. Much like many forward thinking musicians, Death, also suffered from being too radical at the time. Although they came from Detroit, home to The Stooges and MC5, they played music for a community that was more "Back Stabbers" and "Shining Star" than "Rocket Reducer" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog," and when they finally were able to release a single, they had to contend with the rise of Disco.

Post-Death, the brothers formed a Gospel-Rock band (The 4th Movement) and two of the three, Bobby and Dannis, went on to form a Reggae band (Lambsbread). Years passed and the sole Death single became a very rare collector's item as only 500 copies were pressed and on their own label, Tryangle. Sadly, also during this time, David Hackney (guitar) passed away leaving the remaining brothers of the band reels of the band's limited studio existence and the vow that one day, people would come looking for their songs.

He was right. Through underground parties in California, where Bobby Hackney's son, Julian, came across the band's music playing, and Ebay bids on their only 7" to the Drag City compilation and live performances, the songs recorded by the Hackney brothers in 1974 are finally reaching the ears of audiences and critics in a resounding way. Death has been mentioned on many blogs and forums leading up to and after the release of ...For The World To See as well had articles, reviews and interviews with the surviving members written in New York Times, Chicago Reader, Solid State and on Suicide Girls. Recently, the band was met with admiration and applause at Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest.

The music of Death lives on through both ...For The World To See and Rough Francis, a Vermont band featuring Bobby Hackney's three sons who covers Death as well as writes and performs their own Punk songs. Although the band's existence may have been brief and it is only now that the band is receiving press for being pioneers, the music of Death proves that if the music is great, there will always be a place for it...even if it's 30-plus years later.

Buy ...For The World To See here.

Their appearance at Fun Fun Fest...

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