Die! Die! Die!, Die! Die! Die!

Die! Die! Die!, Die! Die! Die!

Steve Albini is ruining music. True, he’s probably made a hundred good records and more than a few great ones, but that’s exactly the problem: he’s made so many good records, so many well-loved records, that everyone who likes those records apparently wants to record with Albini, and sometimes it’s not a very good idea. Case in point: Die! Die! Die! This Kiwi punk band has a pretty standard post-punk twangy-riffs-and-yelling sound that, live, might cohere wonderfully. They don’t have the songwriting skills to carry a weak performance, though, and everything seems to have gone to hell in the studio. Drummer Michael Prain doesn’t have the muscle to fill up the Electrical Audio sonic space or the restraint to play within it, and as a result the studio’s characteristic reverb turns his drums to mush. Andrew Wilson’s voice suffers the same fate, echoing weakly.

Albini’s upside-down mixing — drums and bass on top, guitar and vocals underneath — doesn’t help, either, as it allows Prain and bassist Lachlan Anderson, who is solid but doesn’t lead, to swallow up Wilson’s guitar. That guitar is often the most interesting part of DDD’s music, but it’s almost exclusively interpreted here as a backing instrument. An example is the clever, halting riff that opens “Out of the Blue” and then is immediately rendered inaudible by the entrance of Prain and Anderson. A further problem here is Albini’s naturalistic philosophy, which has apparently prevented the correction of a major timing problem in “Shyness Will Get You Nowhere”: as Wilson’s scream announces the climax of the song, the tempo suddenly drops, as if the band had accidentally gone for second gear instead of fourth. Whoops!

Finally, the mastering process may have sealed the album’s coffin: the band took their mixed record from the Studio That Punk Built to that hallowed hall of pop, Abbey Road, where it sounds as if the album was compressed heavily and turned up in volume. Whether this is what happened or not, something somewhere has squashed all the dynamic variation out of this record, thoroughly defeating the biggest strength of Albini’s recording style, namely, the preservation the natural variations of live play.

Die! Die! Die!’s music is not complex, and their album’s production is extremely simple. Any decent local studio — which, admittedly, may be rare in New Zealand — could have made a raw, tight, dry, fun document of it, and then any decent mastering house could have squashed and cranked it a bit. Instead, the band flew halfway around the planet twice to work with famous engineers, and they’re left with a jumbled mess. Let’s hope it was a learning experience. By design, Albini’s best work was done with the best bands in the world. Crossing the Pacific on the assumption that you’re one of them is a risky proposition.

(S.A.F. Records -- P.O. Box 1876, Aptos, CA. 95001; http://www.safrecords.com/; Die! Die! Die! -- http://www.diediedie.net/)
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Review by . Review posted Tuesday, April 17th, 2007. Filed under Reviews.

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