Deerhunter walks tall, falls hard

Categories: Concert Review
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Like sonic life support, the pedal effect has done more to keep four four power chords alive than all the punk bands in Gainesville. Tonight’s show at the Triple Rock, a dazzling marquee of import ambient pop-smiths, drew a healthy crowd and healthy ovation, and wasn’t too hard on the ears. But haunting the entire performance was the sense that, despite columns of delay and oceans of reverb to fatten the sound, the music laying beneath the crust and mantel of all those pretty pretty pedals was nothing more than a plain, familiar stone.


Chicago’s Disappears provided the most menacing set of the evening. They aptly self-describe as “CCR via Minor Threat.” Not a bad approximation of their sound, which drove itself from the front of the set to the back with pounding rhythms and the kind of two chord, reverberant progressions that would foreshadow the rest of the evening like a dimestore mystery novel, the kind where you can spot the murderer in the first paragraph. Their presence was gaunt and grizzled and tour-dirty, and, aside from the lead singer, they had few rejoinders and virtually no eye contact with the crowd that assembled on the floor. It's not a slight-- and in fact, when properly executed (as it was here), onstage remoteness can impart a certain mystique upon the night when the music falls flat.

Times New Viking, three piece darlings hailing from Columbus, Ohio, had a pleasant, unimposing set. The genres cast upon them seem wholly misapplied-- often called lo-fi noise pop, their music, a well-seasoned porridge of droning, bent string solos and power chords that run from C to G and back again like a hyperactive child, is nothing so daring. With a pared down set-up of guitar, keyboard, and drums, they manage a lean sound that still manages to fill the ear. It's melodic enough, they clearly enjoy what they're doing, and their set was a spike in the evening's cardiogram, even if there wasn't much grist to substantiate the wonderment with which the band is regarded here.

Deerhunter closed the show, entering the stage to the opening lines of "Born To Run" with tongues well in cheek. It was an odd and immediately appealing decision-- the much vaunted band, who toured with Nine Inch Nails earlier this year, filed onstage, hoisted their backlined instruments, and dove right into a lengthy set, complete with big boy rock moves, like mid-song complaints of a crackly monitor, and an encore. Despite their critical success, and the fact that they're on a trajectory to become one of the most talked about pop bands (let's call a spade a spade) in the nation, nothing can wash away the sense that Deerhunter are thirty years late to someone else's game, the unimpressive third wave pioneers of a territory long since settled, cultivated, and ultimately spoiled. Bringing nothing new to the table that Neu! set in 1974, and lacking even the ambition to revise the old forms, their music is a grand act of smoke and mirrors, of expert misdirection. Kicks on the one, seven and eleven. A chord, prolonged. A two step progression, and repeat. And all the while, their effects processors hold them up to the heavens like stalwart supplicants. Be it bass, guitar, or vocals, every sound tumbling from the Triple Rock PA was made dynamic not by ingenuity of craft or composition, but by a pedal effect, triggered almost carefully enough to distract from the plainness of the root sound.

It's musical shorthand of the most unfortunate kind, intellectual and creative laziness of a fairly high order, no matter how painstakingly they or their soundman set the levels on their Line 6 loop pedal. To remove these aids would be to draw away the Wizard's curtain and expose something unmistakably wizened, old, and impotent. It's commonplace stuff through and through. The entire set found Deerhunter, and the majority of their crowd, in a stuporous inertia. No pep, no visible thrill from the band, no grinding teeth or perceptible passion, no interplay of energies, save the healthy applause between songs. Life in its majority is spent at a noisy standstill. One ought never have to pay thirteen dollars for the privilege.


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