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The Death Set

Michel Poiccard

Rating: 3.4/5.0

Label: Counter

The Death Set is really, really fucking loud. At their live shows, they are notorious for playing at crowd level and hitting insane decibels; that energy and volume is maintained in their spastic, cross-genre albums. Their latest, Michel Poiccard, was recorded in the wake of founding member Beau Velasco’s death, and though there is a mild somberness that tints the record – most obviously on melancholy “I Miss You Beau Velasco” – the group’s sonic assault is consistent throughout. On that song in particular, they turn what would typically be a slow, lumbering ballad into an eclectic storm of fuzzy guitars and a hollow synth refrain that engages sentimentality without caving to the maudlin.

The album’s title comes from the lead character in Godard’s Breathless, and the title track “Michel Poiccard Prefers the Old (She Yearns for the Devil)” might be the first electro-punk song that retells a French New Wave film ever. The lyrics, aggressive guitar and percussion kicks keep the same cavalier attitude that made the character Belmondo’s most memorable role. Poiccard’s effortless charm and stoic demeanor are reflected in the clever lyricism and youthful emo sensibility (“Your girl’s got the itch for the bad boy situation/ Devastations, broken hearts, but who can stop?“). Death Set captures this bad-assness well, in a way that is likely more capable and less grating than an actual pop-punk attempt would be. (A word to pop-punk: DON’T)

Thanks to producer XXXChange filling in for Velasco, the record takes on a very hip-hop slant. Just as you might be thinking a song about Breathless might not be for you, “I Like the Wrong Way” kicks in with a chopped and screwed vocalist extolling the virtues of “Mad drugs, mad pussy, mad plane.” XXXChange (who produced the criminally underrated YoYoYoYoYo for Spank Rock) perfectly melds with founder Johnny Siera in their love of brutal punk and glitch – “A Problem Is a Problem It Don’t Matter Where You From” sounds like a distortion pedal got an 808 drum drunk and took advantage of it. I trust I shouldn’t have to explain why a song called “Yo David Chase! You P.O.V. Shot Me In the Head” is awesome, but XXXChange’s bloopy video game squelches battle with Diplo’s drug-addled synth stings and create a cacophonous strand of fun.

The record’s closer, “Is It the End Again,” is where the album loses its footing. This final track is just too sad, in that it’s too plainly written to succeed in avoiding sappy pitfalls. It sounds like a digital version of some bullshit Kansas would have written. It attempts to be reflective, but sounds ponderous and insincere instead; the repetition of, “This is the end/ The end again,” is meant to be plaintive and memorable but quickly becomes lifeless and monotone. Siera sounds like he doesn’t care, so why should we? But otherwise, Michel Poiccard is an album every bit as ballsy and enjoyable as its namesake, but just like that guy it doesn’t quite make it to the end.

by Rafael Gaitan

Key Tracks: I Miss You Beau Velasco, A Problem Is a Problem It Don’t Matter Where You From, Yo David Chase! You P.O.V. Shot Me in the Head

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