CMJ Review: Death, Music Hall of Williamsburg

by Winston "Stone" Ford

It almost sounds like a TV movie.

A group of ragtag brothers from Detroit watched a Alice Cooper show and show and decide to create their own rock
sound. But unfortunately, they never become famous and the sound goes on to be an international phenomenon, but the band does not reap the rewards. This is not TV, this is the band Death.

Death eschewed the Motown sound of the day and creating what will only be known as a precursor the punk rock music in America. (They pre-date the Ramones by 2 years and Bad Brains by Even though their hard rock sound was a tough sell in the days of Motown, their forward thinking sound even caught the ear of Clive Davis back in the 70s, but the reluctance to change their name resulted in their songs barely seeing the light of day.

Fast forward to the Internet age and a YouTube posting of one of their singles  (and some prodding by their children) led to a reemergence of the band. The group–who is playing gospel in Vermont at the time–then re-formed to spread their groundbreaking sound to a new punk audience.

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The first night of CMJ was a beautiful thing to see. Music Hall of Williamsburg was already sweaty thanks to Cerabal Ballzy and Ninjasonik warming up the audience. Billed as the “Death to Hip-Hop” (whatever that means) the mosh pit was filled the flailing bodies sweat and one of them some of the most diehard punk fans I’ve seen a long time. The most interesting thing about the night? The crowd was a good 20 to 30 years younger than the headliners onstage. It didn’t matter though, as the band pretty much went to
every song from their 1973 album For The Whole World To See without any breaks.

The band played like it was 1974 Detroit, meaning that they were as tight (and most likely tighter) than they were over 30 years ago. Live, the tracks sound crisp and fresh, especially the “hits” like the double time “Politicians in My Eyes,” and psychedelia infused “Let the World Turn.” Both prove the timelessness of their music. The best part is seeing the brothers–Bobby and Dannis Hackney–with smiles on their faces as they play for the overly enthusiastic crowd.

People rail on the Internet sometimes, myself included. But for every complaint, there are success stories like Death. Destined to be tossed onto the cutting room floor of music history, the band is now able to play all over the world.

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