The Death Set’s punchy collection of 17 tracks is as much a schizophrenic celebration of musical styles as it is an obituary to a curtailed life.
After losing Beau Velasco to a drugs overdose in September 2009, you might have expected remaining protagonist Johnny Spiera to lose momentum. Instead, with new album Michel Poiccard he has reformed The Death Set into a trio who, collectively, have created a dizzying concoction of genres and styles.
I Wanna Take This Tape And Blow Up Ya Fuckin’ Stereo is a five-second mark of intent for the Aussie-rooted, America-based band. Slap Slap Slap Pound Up Down Snap feels like the punk offspring of The Prodigy, but much of the album is deeply rooted in early Beastie Boys‘ hardcore punk influenced hip hop sounds. Can You Seen Straight? illustrates that, but adds a touch of The Go! Team‘s double Dutch choruses and garage rock.
A Problem Is A Problem It Don’t Matter Where You’re From and Too Much Fun For Regrets run in that same frenetic vein amongst power pop and electro beats, only showing a tendency for cathartic lyrics.
The whole album is laced with memories of the former band member. We Are Going Anywhere Man is pitched amidst Tokyo Police Club-esque drawling vocals and mellow keyboard riffs. And Velasco’s ghostly, tongue-in-cheek nonsensicals are looped with art-installation instruments on Is That A French Dog?
I Miss You Beau Velasco, one of the best – and notably the longest – tracks of the collection, is a post punk beauty with piercing keyboard loops and echoing vocals. More blissed-out sadness swallowing riffs appear on 7PM Woke Up An Hour Ago, during which SpankRock appears as guest.
Michel Poiccard ranges from jangling memorable indie to metal rock, but the trio aren’t afraid of electronic touches to lift the mood and keep the music more party than circle pit. There are even instances where they teasingly pause at Public Enemy, before jumping back on their more characteristic high octane, hardcore punk/hip hop train.
There’s no doubt things have changed for Spiera since the album Worldwide was released in 2008. In fact, a lot of the tracks on Michel Poiccard do feel like a cleansing process for him to get over and make sense of what happened, moving on with his new band mates.
What this record lacks in brilliance and cohesion, it makes up for in gusto. But then that’s always been the same for The Death Set. In fact, the album’s chameleon quality ends up being just the thing that makes it so appealing; especially during the pit-of-the-stomach, saddening album closer, Is It The End? By virtue of the last track sitting in such stark, depressive contrast to the rest, Spiera probably accidentally, but definitely effectively, makes you want to skip back to the start – an analogy for the underlying feelings he gives away over Beau Velasco.