Years Later, Death Finally Arrives

October 19th, 2011

Death – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 18, 2011

Death was a three-piece hard-rock band from Detroit in 1975, a time when Motown ruled the airwaves and the sound in their neighborhood. After seeing Alice Cooper, the Hackney brothers realized they weren’t going to be another local R&B band. In addition to being a precursor to punk with their hard and fast guitar lines, their name was more than a little challenging, working against any chance they might have had at commercial success. After one single released on their own label—“Politicians in My Eyes” backed with “Keep on Knocking”—the band might have ended their Hendrix meets the MC5 pioneering sound in obscurity.

But great music doesn’t get off that easy, and Bobby Jr. , the lead vocalist’s son, thought he’d heard his dad’s voice on a 7″ at a party years later and their secret was out. Bobby Sr. dug out their unreleased studio recordings from storage and Drag City finally released …For the Whole World to See. Last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Death played almost the entire album to a new generation of fans who cleared the center of the floor in an arms flailing show of support. The brothers, who now live in Vermont, constantly thanked the fans, genuinely appreciative of the support of their sister city.

“We always heard New York was talking about what was going on in Detroit, and all we talked about was what was going on in New York.” Openers Cerebral Ballzy on this bill now seemed obvious, a logical descendant of Death, playing exactly the kind of subversive punk they want to play against expectations. It’s the stories behind forward-looking music that keeps those kids in their bedrooms and garages recording, even if it takes 30 years to finally acknowledge an album recorded by three brothers after school as groundbreaking. —Jason Dean