When you listen to “North Street,” a just-released song by the band Death, it’s hard to believe it’s more than 30 years old. The cut, with its urgent beat and relentlessly propulsive guitars, is part punk and part avant-garde rock. Death originally recorded the track in 1980, but it never saw the light of day — until now.
Death had a short and ultimately futile run in Detroit in the early to mid-1970s. The three brothers behind the project — David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney — started out as an R&B band, but retooled their sound after seeing The Who and Alice Cooper perform. Columbia Records initially wanted to release Death’s music in 1974, but the deal fell apart when the band members refused to change their name to something more palatable.
Death broke up in 1977, and the Hackney brothers relocated to Vermont, where they changed the band’s name to The 4th Movement. “North Street” was recorded just as the group was transitioning to its new incarnation. But neither Death nor The 4th Movement ever gained a following, and guitarist David Hackney died of lung cancer in 2000. Death’s music was mostly forgotten until bassist Bobby Hackney’s sons discovered the old recordings in their family’s attic.
In 2009, Drag City released a collection of seven songs Death had recorded in 1974. In April, the label will release another compilation that will include songs recorded in the ’70s and early ’80s; it’ll also include two songs the band recorded in 1992. “North Street” will appear on the new compilation, as well as on a 7″ single backed with the song “We’re Gonna Make It.”