The Dead Kennedys, Bauhaus, and Hawkwind had a love child. Don’t ask me how I know. The process of conception was messy, to say the least, and I’d rather not talk about it. Nine months later plus several years for childhood, adolescence, acne, and what-not, this child emerged into the public and proclaimed itself to be Destruction Unit.You’ll notice its name comes from all three: ‘De’ from the Dead Kennedys, ‘struction’ from the Bauhaus movement emphasis on constructing functional buildings, and ‘Unit’ from the single band member (Dave Brock) that has persisted throughout Hawkwind’s history.
Destruction Unit’s sound fits the love child metaphor much better than their name. The arrangements and drama of their music definitely comes via Bauhaus where a slow interlude or dropped instruments give you a breath before the music pummels you some more. The most notable Bauhaus feature is lead singer Ryan Rousseau’s voice. Instrumentally, it’s all Dead Kennedys, specifically Dead Kennedys guitar/bass. Finally, Destruction Unit seems to have stolen Hawkwind’s effects pedals, particularly the spacier ones.
Side Note on Ambient Noise: The way I hear it, the term “ambient” usually refers to some sort of not-quite specific noises that aren’t exactly musical that make you feel you’re in some kind space. Usually, its meditative or empty-sounding, but I think even body shops can have an ambient sound. Destruction Unit’s sound is filled with noisy elements that don’t drive the sound and, thus are ambient. These sounds are often uneven, like the peanut butter when you open the sandwich again. Not just uneven, the ambient sounds are harsh, too, like the peanut butter with a switch blade. This is a kind of ambient noise I can handle. I’ll leave the big open space ambient stuff to the more sophisticated listeners.
With this, their second album Deep Trip, Destruction Unit get it together … or so I’ve heard (this is the first album of theirs I’ve heard). Their courage or foolhardiness shows right off with the opening noise break on “The World on Drugs”. They prove their willingness to strangle guitars for your listening pleasure. When the guitars are sufficiently strangled, the music takes off in the Dead-Kennedys-in-space mode. A typical DU change of pace gives you a minute long mid-tempo break until they’re off to the races again. Barely a moment passes, and “Slow Death Sounds” starts in with a D-Beat rhythm, behind extremely fuzzy thrash guitars set in the active machine shop. Rousseau’s vocals start to resemble Jello Biafra in “Buzz Bomb”. Finally, in “Bumpy Road”, a heavier spacier Hawkwindier sound emerges. Hear the whooshing? I dare you to point out when in this entire album that whooshing stops. Next up, “God Trip” is an exhilarating high speed trip reminding me the of the Damned when they went goth. Skip ahead and Destruction Unit takes a more typically psych sound in “Night Loner” a seven and a half minute head-spinning trip of heavy psych with noisy metallic flavoring on top.
Separate from the sound, I was struck by the pure velocity drummer Justin Keefer strikes those drums. I’m not sure an ordinary drum set could survive more than one concert or practice session. His cymbals must be made from truck axles and his drumsticks from titanium leg prostheses. If drums were thinking/breathing beings, Keefer would be in line for an intervention.
Overall, this album lies somewhere between the Jesus and Mary Chain and Deafheaven with the noise from the former and heaviness of the latter. Is it poppy? It is not. Is it comfortable? Not really, but it won’t make you fear for the decline of civilization either. For me, it’s excellent music for a grumpy mood, giving me something to snarl at/with while at the same time smoothing out the spikes of annoyance. If you need calm music to get calm, Destruction Unit will rile you up. Use with caution, but use it all the same.