Death From Above 1979 – Is 4 Lovers
Released March 26th, 2021 on Universal Records
DFA 1979 came of age at the tail end of indie rock’s newfound fascination with dance music, after “House of Jealous Lovers” and around the time of the Klaxons, Franz Ferdinand, pop-trajectory Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” At the time they were intoxicating: a bruising blend of heavy guitar riffs and dancefloor rhythms that filled the playlists at semi-goth club nights everywhere. Dark eyeliner, endless drinks, and dancing until dawn: this was what the DFA 1979 legend was built on. That it was also what the DFA legend was built on is beside the point.
In 2021, though, the eyeliner is starting to look a little ragged. You put it on but you can see the wrinkles starting to form behind it. There’s an unidentified ache in your back and you’re wondering what a few hours out on the dancefloor might do to it. The hangover waiting for you the next morning doesn’t seem worth it. At this point you clearly identify with that Courtney Barnett song that goes “I want to go out but I want to stay home.” But here’s DFA 1979, trying to pretend that it’s still 2005 and you’re up to party ’til the sun comes up. That’s basically the conceit behind Is 4 Lovers.
The duo put their best effort forward, of course. In their best moments, like on the single “One + One” and the banging “Totally Wiped Out”, they can conjure up that old black magic. Elsewhere, though, their schtick starts to run thin. “Glass Homes” and “Love Letter” are the two worst songs in their discography to date; the former spins its wheels with nowhere to go anyway, and the latter is their baffling attempt at bringing an insipid power ballad form into the DFA 1979 sound. Even in their best moments, though, there is a sense that they’re painting by numbers, making songs that sound like “Death From Above 1979 songs” rather than songs that speak to who they are now. Maybe this is who they are now. Marc Bolan tragically couldn’t break out of that heavy psych-boogie rhythm, and perhaps DFA 1979 can’t break out of the dance-punk mold. It’s a heavy nostalgia trip, but keep in mind that nostalgia was once considered a mental illness.