[23 May 2011]
As we continue to plod through our prolonged worldwide economic crises, it seems only natural that, as well as cutting out all the inessential expenses in our lives, we’ll find solace in music in one way or another. Yet just like out-dated department stores, car showrooms, and village pubs, recording studios around the world are feeling the pinch of reduced spending and closing their doors for the last time.
On the flipside, the advent of GarageBand has meant artists—particularly those more solo-based—can record cheapily and easily at home. Chances are we’re likely to hear a lot more bedroom-recorded albums over the next few years. New York’s Darwin Deez, with his poodle perm, scruffy-indie-star sartorial tendencies, and penchant for Meher Baba-influenced ways of living (i.e. no drink, no drugs, belief in reincarnation) doesn’t actually seem like the type who’d sit on his bed, recording drum loops on his AppleMac. But then maybe he does? Because here’s Darwin Deez: ten scratchy songs that scream ‘home recording’ and sound, from the clipped guitars to the NYC drawl, like a bunch of early Strokes demos.
That’s no bad thing, though, because it’s in the stripped down corners of Darwin Deez that you’ll find authentic, honest beauty—all put together by Deez himself. In fact, although there’s the odd moment (particularly on slow-paced reflective dity “The Bomb Song”, the nearest the album gets to a ballad) when you really feel the album could do benefit from more production, the truth is any more layers and Darwin Deez would lose its charm. For a start, glossing over the cracks would also come at the expense of the kooky, Bed Folds-esque lyrics—naked and unadorned, they are one of the defining elements of this album. On the poppy “Constellations”, for example, “There’s a million little lights when the sky turns black tonight / Are there patterns in our skies / Are patterns only in our eyes?” may seem twee on paper, but, on record, rarely does such quirky mysticism sound so believable.
And with Deez’s clean, alcohol-and-drug-less living an influence on this album, the lyrical themes subsequently stick to trouble with girls and naive wonderings about the universe. Ringing with the kind of choppy riffs and lo-fi guitar effects Albert Hammond Junior used to knock out on his solo albums—another reference point for Darwin Deez‘s sound—“Up in the Clouds” covers both: “Gravity’s weaker when you’re near, my dear / And I’m sorry I let you down”. “Radar Detector”, an album highlight, reveals just how much of a weird, loveable oddball Deez is: “You and I buy star maps, and ding dong digital evangelist”.
Darwin Deez bobs along nicely and, although it’s not an album to get particularly excited about, it’s hard not to like it. While we all cut back on the inessential stuff in life to save money, Darwin Deez has done the same with his debut album: As his star rises, and he’s open to more production-rich opportunities, let’s hope he remains just as thrifty.