SummaryThe Death Set's new album, "Michel Poiccard", comes prefigured by tragedy. For their first record "Worldwide", the core of the group had been the two Aussie ex-pats who moved together to Baltimore in the early noughties - Beau Velasco and Johnny Siera. Just as the pair were about to embark on writing a new album together, Velasco, who had struggled with drug addiction on and off throughout his life, died of an overdose.
The band were shattered, so much so that Johnny still finds it almost impossible to talk about. It wouldn't have been surprising if the group had decided to call it a day. Instead, Johnny Siera, with long time band members Daniel Walker and Jahphet Landis decided to make the record a celebration of Velasco's life. Relocating to Brooklyn and enlisting long time friend and Baltimore associate XXXchange (Spank Rock, Kele, The Kills) to man the desk, they created "Michel Poiccard," an album which loses none of the charm of their previous "punk spazz" work but adds considerable depth, both in terms of the punch and bottom end that XXXchange brings to the table, and in terms of a sense of desperate loss or longing, which permeates everything on the record and reaches a considerable pinnacle on "I Miss You Beau Velasco" and the closer "Is It The End Again?"
There are songs here about mammoth Ecstasy binges ("Chew It Like A Gun Gum"), Beasties-like celebrations of arcane handshakes (first single, "Slap Slap Slap Pound Up Down Snap") affirmations of relying on positivity thoughout the roughest of times "We Are Going Anywhere Man", a celebration of one of the stars of A Bout De Souuffle ("Michel Poiccard (She Yearns For The Devil)"), tales of smashed equipment and angry promoters ("Can You Seen Straight?"), with a dose of familiar, snotty, punk anthems about French girls with a penchant for taking it up the shitter ("I Like The Wrong Way"). Diplo drops in for a fight and ends up giving them a keyboard line for "Yo David Chase!". Spank Rock guests on "7PM Woke Up An Hour Ago". Yes, all of them are instilled with the same manic Ritalin-and -Sunny-D-induced energy of their earlier records, but it feels like something deeper has happened here, too.
Above it all floats the spirit of Beau Valasco, amused and laconic. Words of his were rescued from samplers and old ProTools sessions so that it is his voice that opens the record with words which could serve as the group's mission statement, perhaps never so fully realised: "I wanna take this tape and blow up ya fuckin' stereo!"