Week Fulla Black Punk: First Listen #39: Death’s ‘…For the Whole World to See’

LOL so this week was supposed to be the continuation of the Week Fulla Women in 90s and 00s R&B, but I decided to switch things up. After listening to Death’s …For the Whole World to See (2009) – a project containing tracks the band recorded in the 70s – late last week, I got extremely inspired to invest more time in listening to music from Black punk bands. And to hold myself accountable for doing so, I figured a new Week Fulla was in order, which will culminate into a TAKE later on in the week. It’s unclear if I’ll return to the other Week Fulla lol — I guess we’ll find out together.

To start off, let’s go a little deeper into my first time listening to Death.

Photo Credit: https://medium.com/outtake/5-stunning-documentaries-not-on-netflix-or-hulu-61b0bdfef9f

2009: …For the Whole World to See

(via Genius)

It was December 2018. There I was: laying on the floor of the living room at home. I was home for the semester vacation (i.e. the week I got to be at home, before my poorness required me to return to college early to work at the on campus daycare for two months before the semester started back up), but I wasn’t free of school work, yet. I was smack-dab in the middle of working on my thesis and had some deadlines to meet by the time Spring semester started. So I grabbed my blankets, a pillow, my tablet and charger, some water (probably, I don’t remember being hydrated lol), and my earphones and laid on the floor to write. I HATE writing in silence, so I made a choice to finally listen to a couple of episodes of Pharrell and Scott Vener’s OTHERtone (I’d been wanting to check it out for a while and had recently given into paying for Apple Music [it was supposed to just be for a year, but here I am today lol still with it, but Spotify is still my #1]). The natural choice was for me to start with the Tyler the Creator episode, so I plugged in, turned on the podcast, and got to work. I’m not exactly sure the sequence of events that led to Death’s “Freakin’ Out” playing during the episode, but it IMMEDIATELY sparked my interest. Black people…making punk music??? HECK YES!

And of course, I knew Black folks existed and still exist in punk and rock spaces, but for some reason, that fact really hit me that day. Unfortunately, life happened, and I sort of forgot about Death up until last week. I was scrolling through Reddit, whilst picking crust out of my eyes at like 5 in the morning, and I noticed that someone posted – in one of the vinyl record subs I follow – a link to a restock of Death’s …For the Whole World to See, and after a moment of “why is that name and cover art familiar?” I recognized Death as one of the bands I had been introduced to (and really enjoyed) during that episode of OTHERtone. So in an attempt to give myself another reason to spend money I don’t have, I decided to finally give Death a listen, so I could add yet another record to my collection.

It’s really sickening to see

The way they lie on TV

The truth is that he can be

A better man than you see

But when decision time comes

That’s when they have all the fun

Politicians in my eyes

Death, “Politicians in My Eyes”

I really enjoyed it, y’all.

It’s a short project – only 26 minutes and 7 songs – but it packs a lot of punch in that time. The project starts with “Keep on Knocking,” a song that really sets the stage for the remainder of the project. Part of me expected to be immediately greeted by the heavy drums, vocals, and guitars that punk music is typically known for. But instead, we’re greeted with more laidback instrumentation – it’s one that my mind keeps associating with the soundtracks of rock-centric Disney Channel Original Movies lol – and vocals semi-remiscent of Jimi Hendrix. We eventually get that punk-heaviness on the second track, “Rock-N-Roll Victim,” though.

The remainder of the project weaves back and forth from a purely punk-ladden sound to sounds that could find home in other genres. I talked about “Let the World Turn” during last week’s Top 5 from the Week – this song is the PERFECT example of that genre-traversing that Death does. While reminding us of the the inevitability of our fleeting temporality (“Whatever is behind you / Leave it past / Can’t you see what’s coming / Let the world turn / Let the world turn around”), the Hackney brothers show off their skillful and expansive musical abilities. “Let the World Turn” has a bit of a psychedelic rock vibe mixed with the groove of a funk song at the beginning, a punky middle (after some slightly dramatic drum build-up), and we’re brought back into that psychedelic-funk vibe at the end (again, after some pretty dramatic drum build-up). It’s moments like that where Death’s funk origins shine through a little bit more, and I like that we don’t get straight up PUNK the whole time. Makes it more interesting to listen to. “Politicians in My Eye” was another interesting listen – definitely a song for our current moment. In it, Death talks about the commodification of the public for the private gain of politicians, how our lives and livelihoods are dwindled into games that they play to essentially wave check each other, and the false sense of security garnered by fake smiles, hand shaking during rallies, and disingenuous promises. And if that isn’t the forever 2020 mood!!!! There’s a little wail at the end of the song that I’m assuming is from Bobby Hackney that I’ve decided is what I’m identifying with for the rest of my life lol. Such a good track. All 7 of them are really amazing. “Freakin’ Out” sounds even better in the context of the album, I love how fast-paced “Rock-N-Roll Victim” is, “Keep On Knocking” is what I want to play at the beginning of my biopic, “You’re a Prisoner” has a half-speed/slowed chorus that I’m really into (perfect for spooky season), and “Where Do We Go From Here???” will be what I play when I need to feel less alone in my existential crises.

I’m very happy I finally checked this project out. I hate hate HATE that Death’s musical journey is so hidden and obscure, because I would have LOVED having a band like this to listen to in high school, when I was binging on Green Day and Radiohead. I have a lot more I want to say about Death, but I’m gonna save that for the TAKE later on this week.

While doing some Googling, I saw that there’s a documentary on them and their music that came out a few years back. Definitely planning to check that out, while I wait for my vinyl to get here! I plan on listening to it a LOT.

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image Credit: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-band-called-death-review-20130626-story.html

(listen to …For the Whole World to See on spotify by clicking the image below)

here’s something else you might like…

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