Album Review: DZ Deathrays – Positive Rising: Part 1

It would appear some of my fondest memories of Auckland (New Zealand, Aotearoa) have managed to follow me to Backseat Mafia.

I recall there was a buzz about a band from over the ditch (Australia. Just Australia) about a noisy three-piece who were of the Blood Brothers ilk. A little bit dance-punk, a touch of noise and an energy capture on an EP that was pretty good, if not slightly derivative.

Dance-punk at that time fell into either the Blood Brothers, Death From Above 1979 or CSS camps. If you weren’t around for that scene. It was all really good if I do say so myself.

DZ Deathrays were that band. Given the musical rivalry between the two countries, one that stemmed from who legitimately owned Crowded House through to who wants to keep Evermore, that there was an excitement about an Aussie act meant something. It transcended this musical jingoism.

So imagine my delight when British label Alcopop! Records have teamed up with the band for their latest effort, Positive Rising: Part 1.

Admittedly it’s been years since I checked out the works from Shane, Lachlan and Simon (vocals/guitar, vocals/lead guitar and drums respectively). I kind of lost some love for the group when they incorporated a former Wiggle on Bloody Lovely, perhaps because I thought more of a band that created the absolutely pulverising Ruined My Life.

So with a little trepidition, I started listening to their latest work… and, well, it’s kind of what I expected.

The thing with DZ Deathrays as of late is this tendency to lean into trends at the time. Black Rat in 2014, for example, leaned into the blues-rock that seemed to have re-emerged in the music scene. This time around, the trio look set to create songs that have that arena/large stage anthem-esque presence. The kind of songs that are designed to have large crowds waving their arms in unison and sing the refrains.

“IN-TO-IT” for example has that frenetic energy one could associate with The Bronx. I enjoy The Bronx, as do a lot of people, but the thing is The Bronx did it before and had their own, unabashed raucous stamp on it. With DZ Deathrays, it seems a tad formulaic.

It also seems somewhat dated at points. “Hypercolor” and “Year of The Dog” are perfectible serviceable tracks but again don’t break new grounds. I kept checking if the track in question was from DZ’s album, rather than my mobile device suddenly moving to a Nine Black Alps album.

Being formulaic isn’t all that bad though. As much as it seems I am criticising the band for treading ground that has already been mapped out predominantly over the past few years I’m not. If this is the bands attempt to break into a European market then indeed, it should do the trick. It bears all the hallmarks required to gather that radio play – it’s a palatable take on alternative rock having left behind their noisy roots.

If Biffy Clyro could do it, then it’s unfair to say DZ Deathrays shouldn’t be allowed.

There will, of course, be an audience for the band’s latest work; it has an overall catchiness to it and a knack to have one or two tracks stick in your head. But given what DZ Deathrays were and what they have become, it’s definitely an album that is more for the late-starters with the band and newcomers rather than the older sect.

Previous Interview: Cédric Le Gallo and Romain Brau (The Shiny Shrimps)
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