When you listen to “North Street,” a just-released song by the band Death, it’s hard to believe it’s more than 30 years old. The cut, with its urgent beat and relentlessly propulsive guitars, is part punk and part avant-garde rock. Death originally recorded the track in 1980, but it never saw the light of day — until now.
Before Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols or even the Ramones, there was a band called Death.
Punk before punk existed, three teenage brothers in the early ’70s formed a band in their spare bedroom, began playing a few local gigs and even pressed a single in the hopes of getting signed. But this was the era of Motown and emerging disco. Record companies found Death’s music— and band name—too intimidating, and the group were never given a fair shot, disbanding before they even completed one album.
Equal parts electrifying rockumentary and epic family love story, A Band Called Death chronicles the incredible fairy-tale journey of what happened almost three decades later, when a dusty 1974 demo tape made its way out of the attic and found an audience several generations younger.
Playing music impossibly ahead of its time, Death is now being credited as the first black punk band (hell…the first punk band!), and are finally receiving their long overdue recognition as true rock pioneers.
The responsibility of the modern artist is still to unify belief and emotion; only now the disastrous event, the objective pathos, is not a remote possibility, but has already occurred. What needs to be made visible now, brought to expression, is the violence that has already been done to the subject, that has already murdered the autonomous subject and left in her place the walking dead, the zombie, the monster. The monstrous here has a narrow and precise signification: it represents the dead in the apparently living, the living in what is deathly, the gross vitality of what is apparently dead, the boundary between the living and the dead as becoming indeterminate.