Music Reviews

On WHY HASN’T EVERYTHING ALREADY DISAPPEARED? Deerhunter Find Themselves Begrudgingly Going Pop (And It Works)

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Genre: Art Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Greenpoint Gothic,” “Element,” “What Happens to People?,” “Futurism,” “Nocturne”

Even though Bradford Cox hit peak reclusivity, eccentricity, and crotchety-ness 12 years into his recording career, WHY HASN’T EVERYTHING ALREADY DISAPPEARED? is Deerhunter’s most approachable and broad-minded release yet. Recorded in the artist haven of Marfa, TX with the help of Animal Collective producer Ben Allen, the album trades the arty sulkiness of its predecessors for Wrangler-rocking muddy Americana.

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Album opener “Death in Midsummer” sets the tone with lyrics about blue collar laborers working their lives away in factories. Cox described making the album in the Texan plains as both primal and post-apocalyptic, a duality that lurks in the record’s underlying themes of societal corrosion. Though released shortly after the death of former bass player Josh Fauver, Cox strangely describes the music on WHY HASN’T EVERYTHING ALREADY DISAPPEARED? as his most extroverted songwriting yet. Because of Cox’s dark and portentous public persona, as well as his history of writing bratty and narcissistic lyrics, it is hard to listen to the band’s latest and not think of Bradford writing autobiographically. “What Happens to People?” is a perfect example of Cox’s proclamations about the album and its actual content disaligninging. Though we, the listeners, are told to believe the track is a letter addressed to humanity in its entirety, it just plays like it was written out of frustration towards a family member.

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Deerhunter used to be a band that you compared other artists to, but WHY HASN’T EVERYTHING ALREADY DISAPPEARED? is the first record by the group that sounds influenced by artists that came after them. “Greenpoint Gothic” evokes WE MUST BECOME THE PITILESS CENSORS OF OURSELVES-era John Maus. “Element” sounds like it was written immediately after the band heard the latest Melody’s Echo Chamber record, with swirling Mellotrons and a straight-ahead but slightly sloppy mid-tempo groove. Cox has said that Deerhunter is not “pink and warm and fuzzy” psychedelic, and is instead “blood-stained and visceral” musique concrete, but his perceptions of his band frequently do not match his projections. Though Cox tells us his musical peers are Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen, in actuality Deerhunter’s latest sounds more like Tame Impala than it does avant garde or modern classical.

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This is not to say WHY HASN’T EVERYTHING ALREADY DISAPPEARED? isn’t a great record—in fact, it is their best since HALCYON DIGEST. Deerhunter have always been at their best as a high-brow indie pop band; though enduring the band’s abrasively pretentious character is like trying to chug a 300-degree mug of black coffee, it hardly takes a discerning ear to enjoy their music. Though Cox and company claim to be more original than their peers, Deerhunter are like an art school kid who waxes poetic about the ultra-modernity of their work, while instead producing beautiful, functional, and thoroughly approachable ceramic mugs. Deerhunter are a band I used to play in the car with my mother, not a band I found through a college music course on dissonant synthesis.

WHY HASN’T EVERYTHING ALREADY DISAPPEARED is a standout pop record and I wish Deerhunter was okay with that. You’re not going to impress your friend who listens exclusively to Lightning Bolt with this one, but you could put it on in any relaxed social situation and everyone present would nod along contentedly. Deerhunter are no longer the most unique band on the scene, but it’s only easier to like them because of that.

Ted Davis
Ted Davis is a culture writer and musician. He works in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

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