The story: In the 1970s, three black brothers from Detroit saw a Stooges show and became so inspired that they formed a punk band called Death. Those three brothers — David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney — began recording a full-length album, but the project was dropped when Columbia Records grew rather squeamish over the band's name. Now, for the first time — after more than 30 years — the Chicago-based indie label Drag City had the cojones to release the unfinished album, aptly titled ... For the Whole World to See.
Punk rock backstory? Check! But do the songs hold up? Well, the highlights here leave one wondering what might've been if the project had been fully realized. The boys channel the best hard rock of the time — such songs as "Rock-N-Roll Victim" and "Freakin' Out." Going along with its era of origin, the record is also steeped in early metal, as heard on the doomy, echoing chorus of "You're a Prisoner" and the maniacal laughter in "Where Do We Go From Here???"
In a nutshell, the brothers Hackney are a clinic in '70s rock, absorbing everything heavy and hard and regurgitating it back in a raw and authentic way that's never too calculated, despite the self-consciousness one might expect of being in an African-American punk rock band, especially then.
The best song here is undoubtedly "Politicians in My Eyes," a scathing attack written in the waning days of the Vietnam War (and every bit as enduring today, the Dirtbombs even revived it during last year's presidential campaign). The original single, Death's only commercially available record until now, is fetching a thousand bucks these days. But with its martial drum rolls, ranting lyrics and explosive outro, it'd certainly deserve every one of those cents if records were priced not by rarity but on sheer force and raw power alone.
Lee DeVito reviews music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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