Line Out Music & the City at Night

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Band Called Death: The Documentary

Posted by on Wed, May 16, 2012 at 11:49 AM

death2.jpg
  • Drag City

"Ahead of punk, and ahead of their time." —Jack White to The New York Times in 2009

If a documentary about Akron duo the Black Keys seems premature—because it is—a documentary about Detroit trio Death (1971-1977) is long overdue.

Though most people wouldn't discover them until three decades after the fact, the band of (actual) brothers provides the missing link between the virtuosic rock & roll of Jimi Hendrix and the righteous hardcore of Bad Brains. In other words, they were proto-punk, just like their Motor City brethren in the MC5 and the Stooges.



If those white players incorporated jazz and blues into the mix, Death also combined genres in a way that confused listeners at the time, which seems weird in retrospect, since Detroit's Parliament-Funkadelic could also rock up a storm—and even sang about it here—but you could dance to their material.

Death, on the other hand, were capitol-letter ROCK. Not just in the proto-punk sense, but in the Ted Nugent/Alice Cooper sense, to name a couple of one-time Detroit rockers (a gig by the latter, in the wake of Love It to Death, served as a major source of inspiration). It's also worth noting that singer/bassist Bobby Hackney recalls Phil Lynott—a Thin Lizzy/Death tour would've torn shit up good.

Now, almost 40 years after they recorded their first singles, Bobby and Dannis Hackney return in A Band Called Death. In 2009, Drag City issued the singles as ...For the Whole World to See. Buy it! It's essential...especially if Chains and Black Exhaust ranks among your favorite compilations. Since then, they've started gigging again, including a stop at 2011's SXSW. Sadly, founder David Hackney missed all the delayed recognition: he succumbed to cancer in 2000.

Alas, not everyone shares my affection for the group (the trailer came to my attention via Mick Collins' Twitter stream). In this Line Out thread, a commenter claims that they were "fashionably co-opted, overrated bullshit. Nobody really listens to these guys; they just love to make sure you know that they know." Derek Erdman agreed; Travis Ritter did not. I haven't picked up the second Death collection, but the first made my 2009 top 10—and it sounds just as good today.

The world premiere of Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino's documentary, A Band Called Death, takes place at this year's LA Film Fest, which runs from June 14 - 24.

 

Comments (13) RSS

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13
Having watched and largely enjoyed this documentary with a couple of friends ONE question came up: Have they never played live? I played in bands since I was 14 and apart from dreaming of making records the main agenda behind having a rock and roll band is to play live. I mean… come on - It's the sole purpose of starting a band: doing gigs, impressing girls and having fun. I just cannot believe they never played live in 3 years of their existence - especially as they definitely seem to have their chops together. No one ever thought of that?
Posted by gref on June 23, 2014 at 6:42 PM · Report this
Andrew Chapman 12
Love it! DEATH are really really great and their story is amazing.
Posted by Andrew Chapman http://princessismetal.blogspot.com/ on January 21, 2013 at 4:56 PM · Report this
11
Thanks for showing your support for Death! It's greatly appreciated. Follow Death on Facebook "WorldwideDeath" and Twitter "WorldWide_Death" . Links are on my page.

Big things coming soon. Stay tuned and spread the word!
Posted by Death Intern http://https://www.facebook.com/WorldwideDeath on January 20, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
10
Thanks for showing your support for Death! It is greatly appreciated. Follow Death on Facebook "WorldwideDeath" and Twitter "WorldWide_Death" . Big things coming soon. Stay tuned and spread the word!
Posted by Death Intern http://https://www.facebook.com/WorldwideDeath on January 20, 2013 at 1:11 PM · Report this
Kathy Fennessy 9
Not exactly the world's biggest Jack White fan, but I agree with his statement. In his New York Times profile, Mike Rubin also compares them to the Saints.
Posted by Kathy Fennessy http://kathleencfennessy.blogspot.com/ on May 20, 2012 at 12:23 PM · Report this
nipper 8
Godammit. "Ahead of punk, and ahead of their time." —Jack White - Fuck Jack White. I hate his opinion carries weight. Death weren't ahead of punk OR ahead "their time." They were absolutely of their time, like Alice Cooper/MC5/Stooges etc...contemporaries of Cleveland AND NYC/Boston punk groups.

I love Death, they're a great band that got forgotten/never heard, like a million other bands, punk or not. Oh, Kathy, don't get that demos LP, its a waste of $$, it's exploitative. If you have the Columbia/Drag City LP you're done. Promise. And they only had one single.
Posted by nipper on May 17, 2012 at 12:44 PM · Report this
7
Who hearts the Grand Illusion Cinema? I do!
Posted by Kelly O on May 17, 2012 at 11:56 AM · Report this
gicinema 6
Ok. I'll work on getting it.
Posted by gicinema on May 17, 2012 at 10:40 AM · Report this
LEE. 5
cooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool.
Posted by LEE. on May 16, 2012 at 11:08 PM · Report this
Travis Ritter 4
I still stand by my words. For The Whole World To See needs to be heard by the world. Another triumph in their long-overdue legacy.
Posted by Travis Ritter http://nuglifer.wordpress.com on May 16, 2012 at 6:14 PM · Report this
3
Dear NWFF or Grand Illusion: Please, pretty please bring this film to Seattle! Thanks, Kelly
Posted by Kelly O on May 16, 2012 at 5:29 PM · Report this
Kathy Fennessy 2
@1 Exactly!
Posted by Kathy Fennessy http://kathleencfennessy.blogspot.com/ on May 16, 2012 at 2:53 PM · Report this
Larry Mizell, Jr. 1
or am i freakin out, freakin out, freakin out, freakin out, freakin out, freakin out, freakin out, freakin out, freakin out, freakin out, freakin out, freakin out?
Posted by Larry Mizell, Jr. on May 16, 2012 at 12:12 PM · Report this

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