The Triumphant Return Of Deathfix, Or Tales Of Brave Ulysses

It was only the return from a ten-day tour, not a Ullysean reunion in Ithaca, but the sense of relief and joy evidenced last night by Deathfix at the Black Cat was as obvious as the band’s enormous talent.  Coming back to D.C., their album available, and with cheers from the road still ringing in their ears, the Deathfix show was both a homecoming and an album release party.  And while both Brendan Canty and Rich Morel were a little ragged of voice, the fact that a young band could perform such intricate songs with beats missed only through premature enthusiasm, shows just how great these guys can be.

Live, it’s clear why Brendan would happily relinquish the stool behind the drum kit to Devin Ocampo.  We knew how aggressively he played from his work with the Mary Timony Band, but well before we got to the best song on Deathfix —  the immortal “Transmission” — Ocampo’s Aynsley Dunbar homage had us transfixed, maybe even deathfixed.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation,you would think that Brendan had spent his entire career playing guitar, for he seemed that comfortable doing so.

Seeing the band for the first time after wearing out the hard drive from our iPad listening to their eponymous debut through headphones reveals just precisely who passes off the vocal baton to whom on each song.  We’d sort of figured which song was Brendan’s and which was Rich Morel’s, but we hadn’t realized how vocal responsibilities are like a hot potato thrown from one to the other, within the parameters of various songs.  Yeah, that’s Brendan taking the verse in the radio-worthy “Better Than Bad,” and Rich stepping up with the chorus.  And so forth and so on, with Ocampo and bassist Mark Cisneros all doing their part, or parts.

They played the entire album, and only on the encore did they return with something new — a song called “Porcelain,” which was superb, another one of these multi-part opuses like “Transmission.”  When the newest song played may also be the best song played, high hopes are raised for the next record.

We called them a young band, and obviously by that we mean they haven’t been playing together all that long.  After all, when thanking his former partner in Fugazi, Ian Mackaye, and the crew from Dischord who were there, Brendan declared he’d been on the label for 31 years.  That’s a long time, not just for record-label monogamy, but to be playing music professionally.  And yeah, these guys are pros — adults with roots in punk rock and power pop, dance and hard rock, who somehow can concoct a prog nod to ’70s acts as disparate as 10cc and Big Star and pull it off.

It was a triumphant homecoming.  May they leave and return, leave and return, for years to come.

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