If anyone had written off DZ Deathrays at this point, it’d be hard to blame them. Up to now, they’ve not done much to differentiate themselves from scores of other scuzzy, vaguely punked-up garage-rock duos, and even after a four year break before last year’s Bloody Lovely, nothing had really changed. The fact that was only last year seems to be the kicker as well; it’s already been generally forgotten by everyone, and yet, to see DZ Deathrays striking again so soon after with this level of confidence doesn’t even feel like the same band. Adding guitarist Lachlan Ewbank as a permanent member has gone some way towards that, but the fact that Positive Rising: Part 1 arrives as the first half of a two-album project for this year shows a spark of creativity clearly in play that’s seemingly come out of nowhere. It’s intriguing to say the least, and while it’s hard to say there’s confidence that DZ Deathrays can pull this off given their track record that’s been spotty at best, there’s at least hope that they aren’t shooting above their station and that their big ideas won’t blow up in the faces.
And to be clear, it’s not like this is the sole album to rectify all the problems that DZ Deathrays have had in the past, but it’s both surprising and pleasant to see how many of them the band seem to have addressed and reworked. It’s still far from a stellar effort, but it’s clear to see how far that inspiration has gone, to the point where Positive Rising: Part 1 is a more colourful and robust album that DZ Deathrays had even hinted of being capable of.
That’s the sort of notion that comes with an amount of good will that mightn’t nullify the impact of this album’s failings, but it does minimise them to a degree, if only because the band have thrown more in this time to distract from them. Well, they try to, anyway; it’s difficult to miss the blaring garage-rock production that clouds most of what it’s draped over and render the drums as overly processed and slappy on a track like Hypercolour, not to mention the usual lyrical spheres that still don’t really grab the attention. That might seem like a lot (particularly when those issues can be generally be applied across the album), but the benefit of extra creativity and fluidity does a lot to redeem DZ Deathrays. As stiff as the percussion is on the aforementioned Hypercolour, the squealing guitar pieces among the more expansive, almost shoegaze-esque melody has more detail than practically anything this band have done before, and the payoff definitely shows. Even when they do stick to more tried-and-true methods, there’s the impression that DZ Deathrays are leaning into the punk that’s often been adjacent but rarely fully embraced. IN-TO-IT is rather standard for them in its loose, scrappy riffing, but has the sneer and punch to do a lot more, and having The Bronx’s Matt Caughthran cameo on Year Of The Dog feels almost like credentials being validated as the band slide into a low-slung snarl of a track that picks up a great sense of groove. There’s nothing enormously innovative here, but the effort made is palpable, and the greater creative focus and control brings a sense of freshness into the mix that was previously being cried out for.
Of course, in the grand scheme of unique and boundary-pushing rock music, DZ Deathrays can’t hold a candle to the bands who are really forging forward with meaningful progressions, but this is definitely a start when it comes to crafting a more recognisable sound. On the whole, Positive Rising: Part 1 has the dexterity and malleability that DZ Deathrays have desperately lacked, and to see them land on their feet when embracing it as much as they is a good sign going forward, especially when that planned second part does materialise. It’s not quite enough of a departure to say that this is a new, fresh lease of life entirely, but they’re no longer as easy to forget or ignore as they maybe once were, and that’s a good sign. Hopefully they can continue down this path to finally reach a point of greatness.
For fans of: Queens Of The Stone Age, Violent Soho, The Bronx
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Positive Rising: Part 1’ by DZ Deathrays is released on 30th August on Alcopop! Records.