Band reunions are almost always a double-edged sword. If you play it safe and go for the cash grab of playing your old tunes, you’re considered a sell-out and if you write new material it’s always going to be compared to your canon (and usually not favorably). Therefore, it’s always with a bit of trepidation that I approach something by a reformed band that I respect. Well, punters, worry not – the “new” album by erstwhile Cleveland favorites Death of Samantha brings the noise!
A bit of history – I came to DoS through the mighty Cobra Verde, the band that Doug Gillard and John Petkovic formed upon the Samanthas’ flameout (or fizzle, as it were). They were in regular rotation on the college radio station where I DJed in the mid-90s and through some studious crate-digging (pre-internet) I found a copy of “Strungout on Jargon”, the debut by Death of Samantha. I can neither confirm nor deny that I purloined said copy from the bowels of our station’s library, but the pastiche of rock, trash and noise that it contained had me transfixed. It was a keeper.
So, some 17 years later, it was quite a shock to find out that not only had Death of Samantha reunited, but that they had recorded the results for posterity! Consisting of an in-the-studio run-through of songs across their catalog on the eve of a 2012 reunion show, the set crackles with energy and shows off what was often obscured on their studio releases – THIS BAND CAN FUCKING PLAY! Petkovic’s voice, all sandpaper slink and bluesman wail, has become smokier and somehow more seductive. At times he sounds a bit like Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch (and that ain’t a bad thing!), particularly on bruised “ballads” like “Conviction”. As with almost every release he graces, however, Doug Gillard is the true MVP – his slippery runs and blistering leads dance circles around the rhythm section. It’s not difficult to see why Bob Pollard wanted these guys backing him up – they play with precision without sacrificing guts. An impressive return to form, and hopefully a harbinger of new music to come!