[18 October 2013]
It always seemed to me that New York has the literal and metaphorical edge over California when it comes to music. Maybe it’s because all that sunshine softens Californians up, or that New Yorkers have no other choice but to deal with each other in close proximity, and this comes out through music. However, you could say that over the past few years Californian music has risen again, with bands like Rilo Kiley cracking multi-platinum success, so perhaps things are changing out amongst the orange groves.
Deap Vally are Californian girls, in a sexy extra terrestrial way, and there’s no doubt their debut album Sistrionix has edge – you could describe it as something like cock-rock in hot-pants; slightly aggressive, harsh, maybe just like that first teenage girlfriend.
Whilst Lindsay Troy and Julie Edwards have startling looks, and you shouldn’t judge a book by its’ cover, what’s important is that they’re real musicians – they (gasp) play instruments and do not base their careers around twerking. On the whole critics have made comparisons to the White Stripes and Led Zeppelin, and muttered something about originality. Well, yeah right, whatever. I’d probably put them closer to a cartoonish band like the New York Dolls because their image and sound are so vivid and unforgettable (and let’s not forget that having the right look is often critical in rock and roll history). Overall there’s nobody quite like Deap Vally, and that’s what makes them original.
Deap’s Vally’s Sistrionix is apocalyptical, loud and in your face. The first time you hear it, it’s slightly frightening. “End of the World” is a stomping, raucous start, demonstrating what can be done with one guitar and drums. Worried parents could assume this is the devil’s music, but in fact there’s a surprisingly positive (Californian) message that “There’s no time like the present / To open up our hearts / And let love shine in.” Similarly, “Baby I Call Hell” has an ominous title and a heavy, heavy riff that’s likely to scare the olds, but a catchy Suzi Quatro-like chorus balances things out a little.
Still, this is music which should be played loud enough to vibrate bedroom walls. “Walk of Shame” is joyfully liberated and “Gonna Make My Own Money” is a raucous feminist stomp. “Creapfile” seems like a warning to dirty old men, but it remains a provocative strut. There’s kind of a deadpan sense of humour at work – if you miss it, then you probably will end up with completely the wrong idea of what is being achieved.
“Your Love” follows, but the girls now clearly want to be touched, “You got, you got the face, the face to launch a thousand ships / You got, you got the hands the hands to touch a thousand hips.” This is vulnerability, Deap Vally style, and it’s appealing.
Although Sistrionix is a dark, heavy listen, it does have its own moral code – “Lies” is an angry rant about a lover’s “broken contract” and there’s self-knowledge about doing bad things for one’s credit and physical health in “Bad For My Body”. “Woman of Intention” and “Raw Material” are angry, and as a result hard going if you’re not in that mood yourself; otherwise, bring it on. “Six Feet Under” is a sprawling epic, not quite prog rock but getting there. It’s intense and in the moment, on the limit of being self-indulgent. But Deap Vally get away with it, because it’s obvious these girls mean business, and there’s no faking that. As a result all the dumb comparisons turn out to be irrelevant, and Sistrionix turns out to be a debut to be proud of.