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Death - Spiritual • Mental • Physical

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Artist: Death

Album: Spiritual • Mental • Physical

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jan. 27, 2011

At last, you didn’t necessarily have to be there.

Spiritual • Mental • Physical, a collection of outtakes from the psycharagedelic mid-‘70s Deeee-troit outfit Death, laid down on 2-track reel-to-reel as the trio built up to its not unsung but not yet fully sung masterpiece, For the Whole World To See, is largely an exercise in what I will now christen “band-practice humor.” If you’ve been in a band, or you’ve hung out in uncomfortably hot or cold squats where bands regularly practiced, you know of what I speak.

If you’re in a band, or eavesdropping, and you’re lucky, the band has a couple of solid songs composed. It plays these fairly straight, at the top and near the middle, to get things started or to keep things moving. In between, the band indulges in improvisation, two-chord experiments, solos, unfamiliar genres, spontaneous interpolations and covers… to wit, band-practice humor.

In the case of this half-hour release, we get a brief chance to eavesdrop on a band of unique genius at its most raw, its most prankish and its most fun. It almost makes up for the chills, the sweat and the free cans of watery domestic.

The fidelity may be demo-grade. But, clearly, the rhythmically complex, relentlessly urgent math-metal opener “Views” and the unapologetically cheesy Route 66 rocker “Can You Give Me a Thrill??” are greased up and ready for the big time. Loud, proud and catchy as hell. And when it tries a post-Dylan-style electric ballad, we get “World of Tomorrow,” which ain’t shabby.

But the real fun here (the reason to throw this on in lieu of, or in addition to, For the Whole World To See) lies hidden in the hauntingly ephemeral experiments (“The Change,” “The Storm Within,” “David’s Dream (Flying)”), on which the band had the balls to take itself seriously. And in the ridiculous half-covers, interpolating “Got To Get You Into My Life” (“The Masks,” a love/hate letter to the Beatles) and “Do Ya” (“People Look Away”), on which the band had the balls to fuck off work for a few minutes.

Among many other things, Death excelled at band-practice humor.

By Emerson Dameron

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