Japanese noise-pop band Taffy take on an immense challenge on their fifth album, Deep Dark Creep Love: unearthing the halfway-decent song at the heart of the title track of David Bowie’s most-maligned album, 1987’s Never Let Me Down. Taffy scrapes away the excessive 1980s production, revealing an atmospheric, guitar-drenched cover that owes more to Bowie’s “Heroes” than it does his original “Never Let Me Down”. Taffy’s retooled “Never Let Me Down” is a successful reclamation project that Bowie himself probably would have enjoyed. Taffy’s cover honors the spirit of Bowie’s original while improving on “Never Let Me Down” in ways that Bowie wouldn’t have thought to do during his late 1980s creative doldrums.
Formed in 2011, Taffy have built a reputation in their native country and in the UK as a band that works comfortably within the shoegaze genre pioneered by bands like Ride, Lush, and Slowdive. While Taffy still wears their influences proudly, they’ve also been around long enough to have incorporated those influences into their unique sound, which is abundantly on display on Deep Dark Creep Love.
“Never Let Me Down” might be the best entry point to Taffy newcomers, but listeners who like their bands both noisy and poppy will find lots to love on Deep Dark Creep Love. Album opener “She and She” sets the stage, with the vocals of Iris rising ethereally over a bed of layered guitar sounds she creates with fellow guitarist Nao. “She and She” gets the album started nicely, but Taffy leaps forward with the second track, “Sunless Echo”. Drummer Ken opens the song with a propulsive rhythm that never lets up over the course of the song’s six-plus minutes. Ken and bassist Takeshi fully anchor the song, giving Iris and Nao freedom to roam with their guitars and vocals. The result is a hypnotic pop mini-masterpiece. All guitars and singing drop out of the mix during the last 10 seconds of “Sunless Echo”, as if to acknowledge how the rhythm section has been holding things together throughout the song.
Since music that falls under the noise-pop/shoegaze genres depends so much on atmosphere, there can always be the danger of songs on a particular album blending into each other without much to differentiate them from each other. Mood indeed dominates Deep Dark Creep Love, but the individual characteristics of each song do emerge within just a few spins of the album. “Aiai Ride” nicely alternates a pop feel with a more aggressive sound that finds the band jamming intensely by the end of the song. “Inner Nerd”, on the other hand, has a more abstract feel that is echoed in the noisier, Sugar Cubes inspired “The Bates”. Taffy punkishly pummels through “Halo #6” before floating away into the ether with the midtempo closing ballad, “God’s Pink”.
In the end, Taffy rises to the challenge presented by Bowie’s “Never Let Me Down”. Deep Dark Creep Love won’t let longtime Taffy fans down and may even entice new listeners with its sweet and noisy sounds.