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“DD Review: Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?.”

Score: 6/10

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 * A black hole is defined by Wikipedia as “a region of spacetime exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing–not even particles and electromagnetic radiation such as light–can escape from inside it.” It is the theory of some scientists that we could one day enter one, given Earth’s travel through space, or “spacetime,” if you prefer, but he**, how do we know we’re not already in one? How do we know that the black hole we’re currently in isn’t just so big as to render our perspective and scientific scope on it null, as is its on us? Think about that, Cox-owski?

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Now, just on a professional level, this sort of “shocking” album title has possible precedents with a couple Fiona Apple efforts, that tUnE-yArDs LP of last year and…hey, Deerhunter, as just by my last Wiki search I unveiled their debut effort Turn it up Fa**ot. By the way, sorry to steer things away from the existential, but wouldn’t a larger question be why does Wikipedia always list drummers ahead of bassists in the “Personnel” section, even if such an ordering clashes with the alphabetical, and even though bassists are technically a subsidiary of the “guitarist” wing? That’s more humiliating than that “How do you get the bass player off your porch…pay for the pizza” joke.

Hey, I’m full of ’em today, enit. Badoom-chh. Yeah, this apocalyptic Deerhunter album coupled with our government shutdown just seemed the perfect occasion for some food-stamp-level humor.

In all seriousness, part of my cavalier effort toward this particular project involves what was definitely a lukewarm disposition to Fading Frontier on my part and to all songs on Monomania save probably “Pensacola” and “Blue Agent,” the former of which seemed like such the pastoral travelogue as to render Bradford Cox’s stationary, homeward muse all but defunct.

Plus…these albums that come out like five months after they’re hyped. Ack. It’s like do you mean now, or when you announced this da** thing? Yo La Tengo don’t even do that, for Christ’s sake.

Ahem. There’s also the fact that I was really wrong about Cryptograms…I just didn’t GET it when I first heard it, it sounded like repetitive dross without the teeth to come out and really be Nirvana. Eh, I guess it still beats Puddle of Mudd, the manifestation of what happens when someone really does come out and be Nirvana. The rest of the stuff — “Saved by Old Times”; “Helicopter”; sure. Also I saw them at Lolla in ’09 and not only was it great but Bradford Cox was talking in this hilariously psychotic monotone (not unlike Maynard James Keenan at that same event, for that matter), saying things like “I can’t see any individual faces…it’s all just one continuous smeeeear,” addressing the unwitting crowd, of course.

One really confusing thing about Deerhunter is that not only do Bradford Cox and Lockett Pundt seem to have ostensibly identical musical influences — “The Velvet Underground, classic rock, ’90s alternative and maybe Tom Waits — but they also sound exactly alike and don’t seem to give much information on their songs within their website. Luckily Genius had this info posted already (da**) and I was able to find that it is indeed Cox on songwriting and vocal for album opener “Death in Midsummer,” which generally is a casual Deerhunter romp with an above-average chord progression and phrasing but sort of that disaffected laziness that has plagued them in everything post-Cryptograms, more or less, one interesting tidbit being that Cate Le Bon, the excellent songwriter out of California, provides the harpsichord part here.

Another thing that bothers me about “Death in Midsummer” is a sort of identity crisis — it’s got this Shakespearean title, obviously, but then the subject matter is far from erudite, handling the struggling plight of the working class on their downward arc through life. Obviously, I commend him for taking on this theme, but juxtaposed with the song’s title it doesn’t exactly elucidate in the listener’s mind just what his musical vision was, the situation exacerbated by “No One’s Sleeping” having this almost jaunty, almost celebratory horn part, almost as if Bradford Cox is relishing everybody’s inability to sleep (I’m really not in the mood for any misfit-outcast sadism…that stuff is very high school to me). Again, musically “No One’s Sleeping” doesn’t make much impression. Let’s try “Greenpoint Gothic.”

This song starts out dark and tense but then rushes undisciplined sangfroid back into that that cheesy, campfire-rock type groove they seem to think is cool these days for some reason, far removed from that hot-steel indie rock they used to plot down on their second through fourth albums that was edgy and always seemed to send a distinct message.

I was just rereading the other day this Lester Bangs blurb on Captain Beefheart where Bangs travels out to the singer’s desert home and interviews him. Among many other oblong and strange things Bangs was emitting on the topics of artist disposition and the position of art in the world was just a general detestation of rock and roll, as he put it wanting to get away from “that momma heartbeat thing.” Now, I guess in the past Deerhunter just had enough songs to get by on a pretty regular percussion section — I mean I can’t stress enough I was and am still holistically a fan of this band (I actually skipped Lou Reed to go see them at that ’09 Lolla), but the veneer is starting to fade, to me these days, and this band is starting to expose themselves as one that’s running out of ideas and is just going through the motions. I don’t find much use for this new Deerhunter record and would like to see them pursue some entity like a covers album for their next project, if only as a way of stirring up some inspiration of any sort.

 

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