Back in the early 1970s, three brothers from Detroit, Michigan formed the pioneering proto-punk band Death, having been spiritually awakened at shows by The Who and Alice Cooper. The band were headstrong, and refused pleas from Columbia Records to change their name to something that might not frighten a mainstream audience. Sadly this resulted in a lack of previously forthcoming support, and their seven tracks never saw the light of day until Drag City released …For The Whole World To See, eventually, in 2009!
The band broke up in 1977, despondent from lack of promotion, and rightly so – the energy fizzed from those seven songs, but this was the 1970s, and the world, apparently, was not ready for a black punk trio. So they regrouped, gathered their thoughts, and in 1980, released a follow up of sorts, under the moniker The 4th Movement. Various sources describe this offering as ‘gospel rock’, but to label it merely this way would be to do the band a grave disservice.
If anything, the roughly tamed edges of the brothers’ earlier incarnation often sound closer to The Jimi Hendrix Experience than anything else, though ‘The Christ In You‘ has that lazy summertime feel of The Style Council‘s ‘Long Hot Summer‘ and there is enough variation on this eponymously titled album to prevent them being half-heartedly pigeonholed under one banner.
‘The Build Up‘ – a fantastic tune – is reminiscent of the towering blues with which the Keef Hartley Band made their name in the late sixties, while ‘Key To Paradise‘ is about as jangly as you can get.
Of course, any artist willing to wear their faith on their sleeve so brazenly is bound to have its fair share of detractors; even Bob Dylan befell such a fate in his much maligned ‘born again Christian’ phase. Some folk, after all, associate religion, in one way or another, with all that’s wrong in the world today, but The 4th Movement never feels over the top in that respect. It comes across merely as three brothers truly wanting to spread their love as far and wide as they possibly can, through the medium of their splendid melodies.
Of course, ultimately attempting to appeal to such a limited audience from that point onwards, the brothers never made any kind of inroads towards becoming household names, but make no mistake, these are still strong albums.
Is The 4th Movement in the same league as their work as Death? Probably not. But one thing’s for sure – the music world was and is a better place with them in it.
The 4th Movement is released on 22nd June through Drag City.