Grandiose barely gets close to the funk-rock palate spread thickly across Darwin Smith’s latest release, which prods at all the intensity of debut LP Darwin Deez, making an already acclaimed sound bolt in mad directions.
These layers of insanity add a further polarization, as affect-after-affect spawn from mellow synth constructions lying against bubbly, free rhythm guitar. Learned vocals, too, top chord-play which would have the driest congregation skanking in the pews. This is playtime for brand-Deez, as the band’s euphoric sense of clutter somehow pulls together and makes our journey magic.
Disregarding tempo, Darwin’s wordy outpourings are a constant; if constant streams of consciousness count. High-octane, lovelorn, sometimes even narky statements drip all over the sound bed, social commentaries ‘I serve more auderves to the trash can than to any man where I work’, and his extra candied, soft sentiments ‘don’t super-string me along’ invite us into Deez’s life, but it isn’t all deep emotional stuff; ‘Good To Lose’ seems to be largely about the wonders of a washing machine.
All this excitement means the ten tracks feel half that on first listen. Darwin’s pre-made pop culture presence makes this feel more like an exciting televisual feast; anything, in fact, it’s inter-personal-ness brings it among us, it’s more than just music.
‘Redshift’’s cut backs suit ‘(800) HUMAN’ and ‘Chelsea Hotel’’s excesses, and single ‘Free (the editorial) Me’ is a higher-concept art piece with a lead-guitar riff so incisive it almost makes a nuisance of itself.
Darwin’s sonic palate of musical construction breaks every rule in half and glues them back together again, stronger, using wilcard adhesives which, if sniffed, cause wild dancing, toe-tapping and ear-to-ear gawpy smiles.
On Soundcloud, you’ll have clocked that squiggly line – or ‘wave profile’ – which is the visual representation of a tune’s peaks and troughs, and by and large an unremarkable squiggle.
Juxtapositional, fragmentary, and esoteric, Darwin Deez’s new Songs for Imaginative People is the album which finally maximises the medium of the squiggly line.
Recall the 2010 hit ‘Radar Detector’, and conjecture the movements of an experimenter with three further years to intersplice the essences of lo-fi NYC indie pop and gentrified ‘80s R&B.
For the group is a vehicle for Darwin Smith – whose well-intentioned, though oblique, companion notes to the album tell us there’s a lot of thinking going on about, like, the universe and stuff.
Songs is from a dimension where, say, highway blues of the Mark Knopfler school (‘All In The Wrist’), and Grohl-ian alt rock (‘Free (The Editorial Me)’), co-habit the same spaces as taut, Prince-esque funk.
Even in a world of eccentrics, Smith proves challenging when we move beyond simply enjoying the likes of ‘Moonlit’ as groovy, avant-garde showpieces and engage on this ‘imaginative’ level of his.
Opener ‘(800) Human’ asks for serious reflection on the troublesome business of being unfulfilled, incarnated beings. Minutes later, we’re blazing through ‘Good to Lose’: a self-professed homage to ‘slackerdom’, which sounds like Foals sharing a puff with early Chilis; ostensibly in there for laffs.
Returning to the squiggle – all this disjunction is generally a provocative, compelling, ploy. But it occasionally signifies under-development, too. The lasting impression is of inconsistency, and – in Smith – a man distracted.
I love sweets. Anyone who knows me knows this. Those juicy little suckers produce more of an emotive response in me than 99% of human beings ever will. But that does not mean I enjoy all sweets. No, there are some that even a sugary connoisseur such as myself find hard to swallow. For instance that black sultrily devil, the one that they call Liquorice. Darwin Deez is my musical liquorice.
Deez’s unique off-kilter style certainly means Songs For Imaginary People is a different record, and it’s the oddness which I enjoyed the most. From the hideous fuzzy fog screeching on ‘Free (Editorial Me)’, to the pop culture filled HIGGILDY PIGGILDY lyrics, to the guitar solos which appeared out of nowhere like a traffic warden with a hand grenade. This record is like throwing sodium into a swimming pool, most of the time you don’t know where it’s going but you do know it might explode in your face if you get too close.
The debut record was very different. The self-titled ‘Darwin Deez’ was as cutesy wootsy as a rabbit sliding happily along an icy lake filled with stars, and there are sure to be fans looking for tracks like ‘Radar Detector’. ‘Alice’ and ‘You Can’t Be My Girl’ are the closest Deez comes. ‘Alice’ feels like the most stable pop track on the record, aided by a catchy chorus hook whilst ‘You Can’t Be My Girl’ holds all the usual Deezism’s, but the music goes all wild and rogue at one point, staying true to the water sodden sodium sounds of the rest of the album.
Darwin Deez is human Liquorice. Testing has been conclusive. Any coconut paste you could spare is sure to make him feel more comfortable. He is being looked after by renowned friend of the Liquorice, Dr Bertie Bassett. He is in safe hands and you need not worry. Please just refrain from eating him. Thank you.