The legendary ‘80s Clevo band’s reunion picks up steam and yields a new album, If Memory Serves Us Well. Does it live up to the legend? BLURT’s own Dr. Toland gives it a listen. Watch some videos, below.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
In its original incarnation, Death of Samantha was the very definition of a critics darling, collecting loads of great press every time it released a record but racking up few sales. A common story, of course, but for the Cleveland band it seemed a particular shame: the quartet’s clever, snarky, tough and catchy rock & roll seemed destined for a sizeable cult following. Alas, when the band broke up in 1990, it was no better known than it had been from the start, despite enough good reviews to constitute a door stop. Leader John Petkovic’s next band Cobra Verde (arguably DoS part deux) fared about the same, and, with its discography out of print and fetching collector’s prices, DoS became a footnote on the resume for guitarist Doug Gillard, who would become Robert Pollard’s foil in Guided By Voices.
But you can’t keep a good band down, and twenty-plus years later DoS told the odds to piss off, reconvened its original lineup and started playing shows again. Both in celebration and by way of introduction to the masses who missed out the first time ‘round, the band recorded a good chunk of its vintage repertoire live in the studio immediately prior to their 2012 reunion concert and has released it as If Memory Serves Us Well via their own St. Valentine label (www.deathofsamantha.com). Shifting from groove to riff at will, DoS still grandly inhabits any permutation of six-string fire we might desire.
From the clattering jangle of “Bed of Fire” and bluesy grind of “Now It’s Your Turn (To Be a Martyr)” to the psychedelic jamming of “Rosenberg Summer” and head-bopping pop of “Geisha Girl,” DoS never misses a step, Gillard, bassist David James and drummer Steve-O supporting Petkovic’s cheeky lyrics with enough hooks to hang Paris Hilton’s entire wardrobe. The band knocks out anthem after anthem with ridiculous ease – cf. the glittery, gritty goodness of “Simple As That,” “Blood and Shaving Cream,” “Harlequin Tragedy” and the what-the-fuck-why-wasn’t-this-a-hit glory of “Savior City.”
A brilliant melange of various guit-based rock styles mooshed together so it’s impossible to tell where postpunk ends and power pop begins, DoS’s catalog evinces careful craft played with reckless abandon. For those of us who (foolishly) came late the party, If Memory Serves Us Well is a godsend. The band also is threatening to go into the studio soon to record new material, so don’t say you weren’t warned.