After releasing maybe the most explosive hard rock album of the early 2000s with You're a Woman, I'm a Machine, the duo of bassist Jesse F. Keeler and drummer/vocalist Sebastien Grainger became victims of their own success. Excessive touring and a growing distance between the two caused the acrimonious dissolution of Death from Above 1979. The two didn't speak for years, explored other projects (Keeler with MSTRKRFT and Grainger with a string of excellent power pop albums) and seemed to have moved on completely, though the band's fans never did. In late 2010, the duo reconciled and began playing shows again, which led to their second album, The Physical World. Such a long break and the inevitable creep of age might have led to the guys mellowing out, becoming introspective, or even worse, forgetting how to rattle windows and loosen teeth with their furious assault of four-string riffs, thunderously loud drums, and ripped-from-the-guts vocals. Luckily for anyone who wanted another album that rocked as hard as Woman/Machine, Physical World is another passionate blast of pure rock & roll, full of electric energy and flying sweat. Even though his bass had cobwebs on it when he first took it out of its case, Keeler's playing is as simultaneously metallicity hard and pop nimble, his thudding chords followed by balletic, melodic-lines style is maybe even more athletic and inspiring than before. Grainger's drumming is just as frenetic and powerful as ever too; it sometimes sounds like there are three shirtless guys bashing away instead of just one. What is a little different this time out is that the songs have become a little less one- or two-dimensional and feel more nuanced and sleek, while Grainger's vocals too have grown richer and more expressive. There's also a little bit of restraint in the playing and arrangements, a tiny bit of hard-won maturity in the lyrics, and some of the tracks aren't far from the power-pop-taut sound he gets on his solo albums, most notably on the Thin Lizzy-ish "White Is Red." Of course, what most fans will be looking for are head-banging, barely under control rockers, and there are plenty of those here. The album kicks off with the cowbell-clanging, hard-charging "Cheap Talk," and if that song doesn't get people out of their chairs and jumping around the room, there are at least ten more chances to go nuts. All in all, The Physical World is a great example of the right way to be a rock & roll band in 2014, and it's pretty remarkable that DFA were able to come back and deliver an album with all the pummeling power of their debut, and were also able to deepen and expand their sound without losing any of its visceral impact. Don't call it a comeback, call it a triumphant return of the conquering heroes, and next time you want to rock unapologetically, this album ought to be among the first options.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra