Black Rat by DZ Deathrays



I Oh You | 2014 | Punk, Alternative

There’s only one way to get a horns-up metalhead and weekend nightclubber in the same room: and that’s with the unifying power of the DZ Deathrays. Breaking down the barriers between thrashing punk rock and synthetic dance music, the Deathrays, consisting of singer-guitarist Shane Parsons and drummer Simon Ridley, hit hard with their second LP release: a full dose of organized noise. Save for a few, each song off Black Rat combines high points of sharp, tone deaf screams with lulls of melodic emotion—and it’s done entirely with one guitar (two live), one drum kit, and an infinite supply of pedals and synths.

At only two songs in, the ode to a strung-out stripper, “Gina Works at Hearts,” carries itself as the highlight of the album. It’s Gina’s down-on-her-luck naïveté that fuels the narrator’s attraction—”I can buy her dead eyes and her wasted smile”—making her the irresistible bad influence that your parents told you to stay away from; locking eyes with her once, but never again. Parsons’ wailing lead throughout the chorus adds an even more sentimental touch to the narrator’s dilemma, and it’s one that engraves itself in your subconscious for the remaining 40-minutes (and hours later). In complete contrast, the midpoint of the record, “Northern Lights,” is an indie pop anthem that would fit unnoticeably on Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights, putting you into a trance as droning synthesizers and a marching rhythm numb you.

Only later will you realize that, regardless of whether your head is naked like a bowling ball or sprouts a messy mop, it’s nearly impossible to resist the compulsion of synchronized headbanging on the fourth track. “Reflective Skull” provides the album with a cruel definition of punk you can dance to (for those of you who thought the genre was exclusive to anarchists who tarnish their vocal cords to ironically “have their voices heard”).  After being compared with bands in the likes of Death From Above 1979, the duo offer far more substance than consistent distortion and shrieking; and the contagious vibes cast from this track prove to be more than sufficient evidence. And if you still think that punk won’t make you move, the music video can teach you how.

Eventually developing into a co-headliner with fellow Brisbane grunge outfit Violent Soho, DZ has adopted much more than just a mutual fan base. Parson’s vocals and riffing throughout “Keep Myself on Edge” scream for Luke Boerdam to any set of ears that have heard Soho’s Hungry Ghost record. The uncanny resemblance shows itself best during the chorus—”Guess I’ll be anxious anymore/ Fell in love with feeling overwrought”—when Parson’s chant follows the lead riff note-for-note. But it’s to no surprise that the track embodied so much of Violent Soho’s characteristic sound considering that DZ actually offered to sell it to them for a case of beer. They denied, and possibly for the better.

Since their startup in 2009, there’s been no difference between the crowd densities of the Deathrays’ house party performances and their sold-out auditorium shows from the Bloodstreams tour. When they first started off, the audiences were made up of Brisbane’s lively suburbia all crammed wall-to-wall in a friend-of-a-friend’s basement; and today, you’re still getting the same shoulder-brushing, body-banging intimacy. With Black Rat, you get that experience on-the-go.


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