I hadn’t knowingly heard anything by them, but the new Deerhunter LP had come No.1 in the Jumbo records chart for 2010 and as loads of people I know rave about them, I thought I’d better go and check them out.
Si, Boy-Lee and I arrived at 8pm and the doors weren’t open. So rather than wait in the queue in the drizzle, we went into the other bar at the Irish Centre where, on the TV, Ireland (Republic of) were getting beaten by Uruguay. All around folks were playing Bodruns and tin whistles and guitars a great atmosphere! After a pint or 2 of the black stuff we could hear the support band start up next door so went to investigate.
Kogumaza were playing, a 3-piece who had tribal, VU type drum beat with a hypnotic/irritating guitar and bass drone – deep dark & mysterious sounds. I couldn’t tell if I liked them or not and swung from “They’re taking the piss” to “This is genius” and back again in the course of one tune.
Next up were Lower Dens who played friendly sounding Indie pop. They didn’t get my complete attention as I was introduced to fellow Podiatrist Mark and got chatting about foot evolution (sorry Lower Dens).
Deerhunter opened their set by saying “This ones from a Manchester band” then seemed to wait an age before playing Magazines The light pours out of me (you cant beat the original but it wasnt a bad try). The crowd were a little subdued which seemed to unnerve lead man Bradford Cox and the next track having a 5 minute jam at the end didnt seem to help.
They have many driving pop tunes but theres an awful lot of noodling between songs which just got a bit tedious..Id rather they did some more tunes. The crowd did warm up a bit by the end but the atmosphere was a bit flat. As Im writing this Deerhunter are playing live on Marc Rileys 6Music show and sound fantastic! Bradford sounds like an ace bloke. Makes me wonder if I just wasnt in the mood last night?
Bob the Chiropodist
I bumped into Mark (as I often do at gigs) and suggested he write it up – often people say “of course” then don’t, so I wrote it up anyway, then today got this email
Hey there Bob,
At the gig on Tuesday you suggested I write a review, so I did in my lunch break yesterday, then made a few changes today. Youve beaten me to it thoughwhats interesting (and I promise I wrote all of this before I read yours) is how similar they arewell, except for The Lower Dens.
See you round and about,
Tuesday night at The Irish Centre is home for Leeds Indie Rock glitterati; the cream of local bands, promoters and legendary fanzine editors. And a host of balding, bearded 40-somethings who pay far too much attention to their record collections
The reason? Deerhunter, whove been garnering plaudits left, right & centre for the past 2 or 3 years, and more recently for their raved-about LP of last year, Halcyon Digest. So were they worth all the hype? Probably not, but then is any band ever? Having encountered Deerhunter a couple of times before, theyre certainly more professional now no phone calls home to check in with mom while on stage but the focus that has brought has lost some of the chaos that could both infuriate and beguile while watching them.
Deerhunter trade in guitar-pop songs, built by layers of delicate noise. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. When it does, and the guitars mesh on a two-note riff of barely-controlled distortion, propelled along by a heartbeat bass line for what seems like ages, its quite brilliant. Unfortunately, its not always successful, and a few songs dont really do anything. Its then that the seams become visible a little post John Cale Velvet Underground here, a touch of C86 fey jangling there, and a lot of shoegazing circa 1991.
It also shows up Deerhunters lack of stage presence bar an hilarious but failed attempt by the front row of the audience to explain who celebrity smartass Professor Brian Cox was to Deerhunter main man Bradford Cox, their was precious little interaction with the crowdthough at least some of that was our fault. Way too much chin-stroking, not enough dancing. Its probably telling that the best song of the night was the opening note-pefect take on Magazines The Light Pours Out Of Me. So Deerhunter thenyes, their music is quite interesting. Just not as interesting as many pundits (and possibly the band themselves) think.
Honourable mentions should go to the support acts, Kogumaza and The Lower Dens, both of whom were more thrilling to these ears than the headline act. Kogumaza treated the assembling masses to long, droning epics of instrumental guitar noise accompanied by minimal, throbbing drumbeats sort of like Spacemen 3 without all that tedious singing about Jesus and drug habits. The Lower Dens presented a curious mixture of perky, surfy rhythms accompanied by gloomy gothic (but not goth, lord no) vocals and tonights de rigueur guitar abuse.
Postscript; the following night, Deerhunter played a live session on Marc Rileys wonderful 6 Music radio show. Whether they were just in the right mood or BBC sound engineers captured the sound more expertly, they sounded miles better. The subtleties of the songs really shone through in exactly the way they didnt at the Irish Centre.