Album Review: DZ Deathrays - "Bloodstreams"

An awful lot of noise. That’s the first gut reaction to “Bloodstreams,” the new full-length album from Australian do-it-all duo DZ Deathrays. For just two people, this is a full-bore effort, ripped from the core of punk’s heart and rock and roll’s soul.

The DZ Deathrays borrow extensively from acts that have gone before (well before,) to make old trends seem fresh. First and foremost, “Bloodstreams” sounds like the care-free electro-punk descendant of “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.” It is an unpolished, rough-hewn affair owning little to technique and much to bravado. Take that essential album, strip away the political gravitas and stir in a generous helping of fuzzy, wall to wall distortion and you’re more or less left with “Bloodstreams.”

Certainly, in the style of their first EP “Ruined My Life,” the Deathrays have seen fit to pursue the avenue that best works for them; unbridled, punk-infused party rock. Often credited as being one of the loudest bands around (particularly for a two-piece with no bass,) it is easy to perceive how the album would best be listened to at a ludicrous decibel level, neighbors and town ordinances be damned. Just listen to the album’s first true track, “Teenage Kickstarts,” which keeps a non-stop kick drum beat that keeps the heart moving and injects the proceedings with an undeniable sense of urgency. The album is high on fire and low on tempering, attempting to blaze at every moment the band deems available.

This plays directly into “Dollar Chills,” a gleeful piece that balances the band’s taste for electronic distortion with their simple but satisfying punk roots. It’s a song that would sound perfectly at home crashing its way out of dorm windows and into college courtyards. It is a hooky song that speaks specifically to youth on an album which circles around that very concept.

That said, there are a few “hey, wait a minute” moments where it seems like the band might be trying to inject something more substantive into the content. That doesn’t mean that the music changes hues in any particular fashion, but there are sections that might be about more than just party songs and sugary themes. One can point to the open, nearly-industrial change of pace leanings of “Dumb It Down” to show that the Deathrays are more than just a pile of noise assembled hastily for the masses. That doesn’t mean that the tune is the musical equivalent of Shakespeare; it just illustrates that the band can bring more intricate ideas to the table when they choose to.

The main pitfall of “Bloodstreams” is that it suffers from a disease of sameness. Even though there are only ten tracks (nine, not counting the minute long throwaway intro,) there are about three too many. Being only a duo, and being determined to cater to the underground party rock scene, leaves the DZ Deathrays without a comfortable margin for musical maneuvering. Right towards the end, beginning with “L.A. Lightning,” the band has shown all of its cards, and so there’s a three song set that doesn’t add anything to the proceedings. “Bloodstreams” might have worked better as an EP, similar to band’s prior releases.

However, the DZ Deathrays do one more thing right, which is close out their album in fine style. “Trans Am” is one of the best pieces the album offers, and capitalizes on the band’s creativity by completely changing styles halfway through the piece. The first half is an almost morose, trippy run of electro-rock, but the second half comes storming back with a fuel-injected heavy riff, determined to end the party with one last hurrah and a desperate surge.

“Bloodstreams” is worth checking out, if for no other reason than because it falls nicely into the “little album that could” file. It’s an enjoyable set of new generation rock parceled out into bite-size portions, with more fuzz flying around than at a Gund factory. Those who love the roots of punk but want to hear a new twist, as well as those who want to enjoy quirky rock and roll without the commercialized machinations will both find something rewarding on the album. One gets the immediate feeling that this would be a killer live show. If you decide to spin “Bloodstreams,” make it as loud as you dare and turn on strobe lights if you have them. That’s how it’s meant to be enjoyed.

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