By Gareth Watkins
DEATH MAGIC by all-caps all-the-time avant-gardists HEALTH begins with the kind of electronic bass sounds that appear in film trailers to show us that a hundred million dollar movie about robots punching each other is very serious business. The remainder of the album is what would happen if new-wave synth-pop was played with the aesthetics of metal: maximum volume, no limit on distortion, drum work more intricate than a Gaudi cathedral.
There are moments on DEATH MAGIC that sound like Duran Duran and moments that sound like Lightning Bolt, coupled with hard trance and atonal noise, sometimes within the same song. Compared to earlier releases they’ve turned down the guitars and turned up the electronica, so that some songs (like mid-album Pet Shop Boys-gone shoegaze track “Dark Enough”) could potentially be played somewhere very fancy, with a lot of chrome, at least for a while. “Life” is positively accessible, anthemic in a very “Pumped Up Kicks” way (you know, the ubiquitous Foster the People song). Compared to the album’s more abrasive moments this chill-out room whimsy feels like a misstep. They’re redeemed by tracks like the nihilistic dancefloor album and lead single “New Coke” (sample lyric: ‘let the guns go off/let the bombs explode/let the lights go dark/life is good.’)
HEALTH are probably the only band making music right now that sounds like it’s from the 21st century. Bravo.DEATH MAGIC, HEALTH