sábado, julio 24, 2010

Deerhunter - "Rainwater Cassette Exchange" (2009) / "Halcyon digest" (2010)

Hipster critics sure have their lips as badly swollen as hemorrhoid-sullied assholes. All of that restless, as consistent as unjustified, ass-kissing should guarantee them that –thus is the abhorrent side-effect of their hype-provoking addictions. Of course, we indie-kids are snotty enough to coat our praises with sufficient sarcasm and elitist detachment so as to bequeath the recipients of said ravings just enough fuel to sustain their hot-air sensation status one short year; yet a quick look at today’s media (read: blogs) will confirm that there are many more sorta-popular bands we feel safe to admit of being “great” now than, say, 15 or 25 years ago. Not to get tangled in an argument concerning how there have always been cool underground artists which failed to find the recognition they deserved, or how new technologies have revolutionized the way we produce and consume music (hence the indie boom) –after all this is nothing but an album review–, we can at least start by agreeing that if Jack White is the last denizen of classic rock in indie-ish territory, and Radiohead, James Murphy, Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire are the transitional heirs of post-punk and early indie/alternative rock, Bradford Cox (of Atlas Sound and Deerhunter fame) ought to have serious chances of being considered the first indie-bred genius, the rightful target of our usual hype-fever brown-nosing. Sure it all is a crass oversimplification (where does Animal Collective fit in there?), but with current indie idols aging fast, we urgently need a mobilizing metaphor this strong, don’t we? Ok, ok. Bear with me; we’ll see if this gets us somewhere.

Restless, hyperactive Bradford Cox ain’t the kind of guy who would tell you about writer’s block or even artistic restraint –he’s never heard of neither. Aside from keeping both Deerhunter and Atlas Sound active (is it 6 albums they’ve released in 3 years?), he uploads dozens of new songs, remixes, mixtapes and similar stuff on his blog with astonishing frequency. Then it should come as no surprise that shortly after the revered double-punch of 2008’s Weird Era Cont. and Microcastle (and Atlas Sound’s no less remarkable Let the blind lead those who can see but cannot feel), Cox would readily present us with a new Deerhunter offering: Rainwater Cassette Exchange. Short but at the same level achieved with the aforementioned albums, for a time available only in the form of cassette tapes, this is the kind of material one masterfully uses to bait fans (and critics) into not losing track of you. But such promotional cleverness doesn’t mean these are the leftovers of an already massive offering, subpar-fillers or undercooked material of Cox’s. No sir.

With a freshly condemned-to-prison Phil Spector –also confirming Cox’s fixation with prefabricated teen pop–, the eponymous opening track lushly hits the Wall of Sound bull’s-eye by coupling the famed Wrecking Crew sound with a Spacemen 3 nugget, pushing the reverb drenched vocals, barraging instrumentation and distorted ambient drones toward an evidently pop ground. “Disappearing Ink” instead recovers the urgency of adolescent punk to project it over a coy German vanguard (Neu!) canvass, a realm where garage-oddity “Famous last words” also inhabits. Back to exotic vintage pop, the surprisingly acoustic “Game of diamonds” evokes the isolated suffering of chemotherapy (or self-destructive behavior) without surrendering its Van Dyke Parks’ era Beach Boys aspirations. Sadly bringing an abrupt end to this EP(?), “Circulation” delves in a swift No Wave-meets-British-Noise-Pop beat which is just long and intense enough to qualify as the peak on this fuzzily memorable dessert to Deerhunter’s 2008 indie banquet.

So where does, in this string of cool-band-references and indie-cred-loaded musings, the genius of Cox show? First and foremost, although you can detect the Velvet Underground-ish, trippy space-rock, run-for-your-life experimentalism, shoegaze enamored blue-print the band is following, it is hard to pin-down where they are getting their sound from. I mean, you can tell what influences they fuse and how they try to pursue them, but it is not easy to spot The Sounds of Young Scotland, No New York or those C-86 compilations playing in the back of their heads while they recorded the album –and that is not something you can tell of every new, hot band (yes, The Drums, I’m looking at you!). True, it doesn’t account for originality, but after a decade of stealing post-punk’s best tricks, it is indeed refreshing in a manner only Ariel Pink would seem capable of giving a run for its money.

Nevertheless, anyone who’s heard Cox’s work knows it is the lyrics that give him the edge over his peers. We obviously do not talk about narrative juggernauts or poetic saplings; brandished by Cox as impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness improvs, truth is his lyrics cannot play down their author’s personality and background (Marfan syndrome, awkward teenage years, etc.) and rely so heavily on personal experience that such condition turns them as in-tune with our times as anything can be. However inflicted with the drowsiness of today’s egocentrism, those lyrics conceal the impeding menace of solitude and decay as well as Jeff Magnum used to do (a still operative knack which “Helicopter”, off Deerhunter’s forthcoming Halcyon digest, proves). Granted, sometimes his lyrics are borderline emo (is that word still in use?) or reveal too much of the freaky innards of a guy that used to talk about his own feces on his blog, but such banal, overtly public confessionalism is a crime that almost commits itself today (do you not have a Facebook account?) and the fact that Cox can turn that into verses lacking a trace of celebratory whim, is the core of his songwriting skill.

Waking up to the blurry, distant sound of a party blasting the Black Eyed Peas’ latest hit might still be our musical bread-and-butter for years to come, but Deerhunter’s aesthetic gamble must stand as an epiphany for any kid growing up in what has been baptized as indie rock’s golden age, as TV on the Radio’s Dear science, song heralded –at least for us who were fresh out of Kindergarten when Pavement, Sonic Youth and Teenage Fanclub were the shit, or who were too Internetless (and busy popping pimples) to pay attention to the turn-of-this-century revivaloution. Sure this is not punk’s generational send-off to boomer rock (bury those hippies already!), but Deerhunter indeed is the first band born and creatively active within indie rock’s dominance, and even if the band or Brandon Cox (or whoever else fits the role) fail to live up to their promise and disappear, it will be bands stemming from this generation that will take indie rock to new places. And that sure will be a golden age. For the time being, while Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest aims to become the first landmark on such a road, taking the spot for the most-eagerly-awaited-Best-Album-contender of the year (sorry Arcade Fire), I am more than ready to put my purple, suppurating hipster-critic lips to the service if it is half as good as Rainwater Cassette Exchange was. So, let the countdown begin.

27 comentarios:

el otro dijo...

and in this scenario, No Age equals to?


Javier Rodríguez dijo...

You know how oversimplifications work, my dearest "el otrou". ;)

What's got me wondering is how do pieces writen in english fit in this blog..., huh?

Great link from the No Bradhunter tour! Thanks for the visit and see you around.

adrián dijo...

oooh! dissecting the lost muse, che, hay cosas que mi ineptitud no logra traducir, y la verdad que ahora era necesario. Habrá que retomar el enlglish nomás, si es que así va la cosa.

Javier Rodríguez dijo...

Hola Adrián!
Gracias por la visita, viejo. Estos tres artículos en inglés son parte de un proyecto concreto y -se podría decir- temporal. Los artículos que vendrán vas a ser siempre en español.
Un abrazo y ya nos vemos por ahí!

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