To start this review with the obvious, the ‘70s turned Detroit into a musical hotbed of all things innovative. Motown, garage rock, punk, some of the more amazing music was being conceived, setting up the foundations for what we accept today. But before Bad Brains, before the New York Dolls, before the UK punk explosion, before The Stooges there was a little known band named Death. Three African American brothers (Dennis, Dannis, and Bobby Hackney) started up a band to help make a change in their world that they unintentionally blew open the perception of rock and roll that it helped define a new genre of music that later became a consciousness in the underground.
Influenced by Hendrix and The Doors, the band called themselves Death as “the doorway” to the unknown. Looking back, you could not find a more appropriate name for this band. They were doing things with sound that when you listen now is just mind bending. In 2008, The Whole World To See was archival recordings finally released to the masses, soon releasing two more archival albums, Spiritual-Mental-Physical and Death III. Then came the highly recommended documentary A Band Called Death, which, once again, blew the doors wide open for a new generation to discover the importance of this band. Thanks to Drag City, N.E.W. now offers a modern glimpse as the group (now Bobby Duncan filling in for Dannis) became inspired by a new era of fans to finish incomplete songs from the ‘70s and record entirely new songs. What results from this is a seamless melding of the two together that shows just how important this band was back then and how important they are now.
I’m not sure exactly what this says about society as a whole because the message remains the same. “Story of the World” is a song about overcoming challenges of the world to be in a better place; the door that opens and transforms the unknown into something positive. It begins like a tepid introspective song, but fires into some of the more inspiring music I have heard since I Against I. “Who Am I?,” “You Are What You Think,” and “The Times,” not only gives a solid representation of reality, but the motivation to have a reaction to it and, like the band’s original purpose, create change.
Not just for the history of rock, but for the history of humanity, N.E.W. should be on your radar to own.