The Living End
Decay, death and sold gold tunes combine on the former nu-gazers’ eighth album. By Danny Eccleston.
Deerhunter ★★★★ Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? 4AD. CD/DL/LP
“I AM a terrorist. My job is to sodomise mediocrity”. Strong words once attributed to the now-36-year-old Bradford Cox – the Atlanta-based singer and primary songwriter in
Deerhunter. The statement typifies an artist who has seemed to encompass ecstatic transcendence and all-out revenge seeking, between the poles of shimmery dream-pop and noise-punk, an approach that reached its apotheosis with the gnarly and dyspeptic 2013 album, Monomania, and its seeming quietus with a 2014 road accident that laid up the frontman for a period of months. Cox’s subsequent attempts to make sense of the world found gentler shape with Deerhunter’s 2015 album, Fading Frontier – and now this, their most resonant yet. Despite the implied semi optimism of its title, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is haunted by sickness, toxicity and violence, with Cox a stoic, slightly opiated observer. What Happens To People? asks one song title. “They quit holding on,” sighs Cox in reply, meaning individuals or the race, or both: “They fade out of view.” Musically, Deerhunter have found a sound for evanescence. Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is more exploratory than Fading Frontier, but there’s a minimalism that helps its stark ideas and sad-eyed melodies shine through. Opener Death In Midsummer drives along on a simple harpsichord figure (played by Cate Le Bon, listed as
co-producer), a dash of Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream and a rocking fuzz-synth solo. It’s the most rhapsodic song about all one’s peers meeting their maker you’ll have heard in a while. In Détournement, Cox’s treated, spoken vocal sounds like 2001: A Space Odyssey’s dying HAL, or the disguised voice of Anonymous addressing the nations of the world, bringing news of some kind of imminent techno-rapture or transfiguration. It’s mysterious and brilliant and typical – only Bradford Cox would hack his own album. But that makes Deerhunter’s eighth album sound more forbidding than it is. Buoyancy is maintained by the vaulted melodies of Stereolab-y synthstrumental, Greenpoint Gothic. Element is Bolan boogieing with The Beach Boys. Futurism, with its sing-along guitar riff, and Plains, with its wooshy, piano-jewelled chorus, are almost bubblegum – solidgold tunes subverted by “fear” and “carnage” in “barren and hateful terrain”. What’s even more scary, Cox seems to wonder: existence or non-existence? (Bet he loves Samuel Beckett.) In hypnotic closer Nocturne he even selfredacts, certain words dropping out, scratched and partially garbled: a dramatic embodiment of the idea of erasure. And yet, the song is somehow more beautiful for the scarring. It’s a final note of weird bliss for
a record filled with such, the last kiss before checking out.
Disappearing act: Deerhunter, with Bradford Cox (far right) .