Album Review: Darwin Deez - 'Darwin Deez' (Lucky Number)

The hottest ’tache in indie defies natural selection with a charmingly low-key anomaly of a debut

Album Review: Darwin Deez - 'Darwin Deez' (Lucky Number)

7 / 10 For the sake of a good soundbite, we’ll call it Reverse Darwinism, akin to dredging the lake and finding a three-titted, five-eyed mutant piscine flapping around at the bottom of it. It makes no sense. It simply shouldn’t be. And boy, is it weird lookin’. All the same, there it is: survival of the strangest at work. Whenever we cast our nets into pop music’s unplumbed depths, we’re always liable to discover a couple of these freakish anomalies who persist out of sheer bloody-minded uniqueness. As much as Darwin Deez can fit into any category, he fits into this one. Up until about six months ago, if you were familiar with Darwin Deez, it was probably as a member of obscure Brooklyn-based indie-rockers Creaky Boards. As a disciple of Indian mystic Meher Baba, Deez doesn’t indulge in drugs or alcohol, and has been known to enthuse about Jimmy Eat World as much as he does Washington, DC math-rockers Q And Not U. There’s also the resemblance he bears to John Oates, one half of ’80s soft rock titans Hall & Oates and cultivator of pop music’s most ridiculed moustache. You can’t decide whether he’s too ironically hip to live, too hopelessly uncool to function, or something more substantive.

That this album was originally going to be called ‘Astrological Epochs & The Sands Of Time’ and somehow came to be called simply ‘Darwin Deez’ says a lot. It’s a more honest title, for starters – with 10 songs that, like the starry-eyed indie pop of ‘Constellations’, rather than cosmological in scope, are uniformly short, sweet and were recorded on a laptop. It also hints at Deez’s weariness of being perceived as pop’s passing oddball.

The result is a compulsive album that often feels like a collection of demos, but that’s no bad thing; it’s easy to see how the simple, toy-like melodies of ‘The Bomb Song’ or ‘Radar Detector’ might be ruined by excessive production, while in their lo-fi form they’re easy to fall in love with. It’s drawn comparisons to The Strokes and The Moldy Peaches, but both are misleading: if it sounds like anything, it’s Albert Hammond Jr or Brendan Benson’s solo albums; similarly stripped-down, songwriterly affairs.

Deez’s sunny optimism also comes in peaks and troughs; for every chirpy ‘Up In The Clouds’ or ‘Constellations’, there’s the spacey melancholy of ‘Bed Space’ or the ringing romantic disappointment of ‘Deep Sea Divers’. On ‘Bad Day’, meanwhile, he manages the neat trick of wishing gut-punch after karmic gut-punch on a love rival while still sounding sociopathically cheerful.

Not all the songs are good enough to benefit from Deez’s minimalist approach, but most of them are. He’s mooted a “more introspective, emotional, Radiohead-whatever” follow-up. That sounds like a colossal misstep, but then that’s kinda what Darwin Deez is anyway. And it’s certainly worked so far.

Barry Nicolson

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