In recorded history, there have been four musical acts by the name of Death. The best known is the death metal band, and certainly metal would be the first place one’s mind goes when hearing such a name. But there have also been obscure acts hailing from New Orleans and Germany that likewise called themselves `Death.’ In the ’70s, however, a trio of brothers—David, Bobby and Dennis Hackney—formed a proto-punk called Death, being the first to use the name, and the ones who kicked the most ass with it.
Though the Hackney brothers’ sole release, a seven-inch featuring the songs “Politicians In My Eyes” and “Keep On Knockin’,” has been fetching prices upwards of $1000 per copy, the fascination with the band isn’t relegated merely to the rarity of their only single. As a matter of fact, the songs on it are pretty incredible. In 2009, some of that obscurity is set to fade, as Drag City Records has unearthed the band’s recordings from the mid-70s with Don Davis and Jim Vitti, collected on the mini-album …For the World To See. The seven songs here may breeze by quickly, but they rock incredibly hard, bringing to mind the raw hometown Detroit sensibility of MC5 and The Stooges, as well as the furious punk of Bad Brains.
Hearing …For The Whole World To See conjures a good many `what if…’ scenarios in which the band could have potentially earned similar kudos to those afforded to their Detroit compatriots. Of course, they never released an album, and this is all psychological rock `n’ roll fantasy camp talk anyway, but damn if “Keep On Knocking” isn’t as powerful and anthemic a track as “1969” or “Kick Out The Jams,” and catchier at that. “Rock `n Roll Victim,” meanwhile, has a more sinister, chaotic punk rock sound, with the Hackney brothers howling like madmen…madmen that are clearly having a great time. In fact, the song is somewhat reminiscent of The Damned, albeit with a heaping spoonful of Detroit proto-punk grit. “Let the World Turn” even finds the group jangling their way through a ballad, sounding more trippy than turbulent before buzzing into a kickass choral breakdown.
The material on …For the World To See is a bit limited at seven tracks, but it’s important to remember that, in terms of the band’s recorded output, this is essentially it. There aren’t vaults full of material like Columbia may be hoarding for their annual Bob Dylan reissue. These seven tracks are completely awesome, however, and a curious discovery of a long-lost band that may not have been well-known outside of their hometown, but played a mean punk rock sound that sounds incredible more than 30 years later.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.