Death – Spiritual, Mental, Physical (Drag City Records)

When Death’s unreleased 1974 album …For The Whole World To See finally saw the light of day in 2009 it was nothing short of a game-changer. After hearing the sonic fury these three brothers from Detroit were laying down you had no choice but to add them to the short list of precursors to punk rock. Two years after ravenously devouring …For The World To See, we’re served an unsatisfying second course of leftover studio demos and sketches from the mid-’70s called Spiritual, Mental,  Physical. The first two songs, “Views” and “The Masks” are extremely lo-fi (and “The Masks” is largely lifted from The Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life”, despite being listed as “composed by Bobby Hackney”), but they at least capture the sound of the band firing on all pistons. After that the quality divebombs faster than a kamikaze pilot in WWII. With titles like “Bobby Bassing It” and “Dannis On The Motor City Drums” you get exactly what’s advertised – studio sketches that were never meant for public consumption. The band should have released Spiritual, Mental, Physical as either bonus tracks on …For The World To See (they’re 54 minutes combined), or as a free download. Selling 28 minutes of lo-fi throwaways as a full-priced CD feels desperate.


01 – Views

02 – The Masks

03 – The Change

04 – World Of Tomorrow

05 – Can You Give Me A Thrill

06 – People Look Away

07 – The Storm Within

08 – David’s Dream (Flying)

09 – Bobby Bassing It

10 – Dannis On The Motor City Drums

Death – …For The Whole World To See (Drag City Records)

The release of this 35-year-old obscurity adds a new name to the small list of proto-punk bands of note – and that name is Death. Before getting to Death’s music, the band’s story deserves a quick telling for context: Death was made up of three African-American brothers who started out making soul and funk music but went through a metamorphosis after getting their minds blown at an Iggy and The Stooges show. This inspired them to absorb all the proto-punk and hard rock they could find, and then record an album that melded both styles together. The result is this seven track beast which, until now, has never seen the light of day outside of a limited run two-song single. They had an opportunity to get a record deal when Clive Davis showed some interest in the band, but discussions disintegrated when they refused to change their name.

Now that you know the back-story, let’s talk about the music. The album is a short one, clocking in at a slim twenty-six minutes. However, despite that brevity, the band establishes themselves as a force to reckon with. They took the best parts of The MC5, Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath to create a potent concoction that, while heavily rooted in the 1970s (there’s even a drum solo on “Let The World Turn”), still sounds great today. The best moments are “Where Do We Go From Here” and “Politicians In My Eyes” where the band sounds like a musical half-way point between what The MC5 had been doing five years earlier and what The Bad Brains would sound like five years later. There are even times where you would swear that HR had to have been influenced Bobby Hackney’s voice, even though it’s highly unlikely that he ever could have heard these songs. Regardless of who is influencing who …For The World To See is a killer album and an early entry for Reissue Of The Year.