After two misses (Kokoko! and Bat For Lashes) in the last three months, I was a little dispirited when DIIV’s Deceiver landed on my doorstep and I opened the Rough Trade fold (the little paper handout that describes that month’s selection).
I knew nothing of the band despite this turning out to be their third album. The blurb for Deceiver was all full of shoegazing references back to My Bloody Valentine, Ride and their ilk. My expectations were low. I often found that particular music scene lacking in personality back in the day. Quite often in the live environment, it translated to a skinny white bloke with a Fender Jazzmaster staring at an array of effects pedals, any discernible personal expression hidden by the long fringe that hung over his pallid face.
When it did work though, it could be exhilarating. The guitar interplay of Sonic Youth, the invention of My Bloody Valentine’s second LP, Loveless. All opening up new possibilities around well-tested formats.
DIIV (pronounced dive) are from Brooklyn (of course they are) and are the baby of Zachary Cole Smith. Zachary is a bit of a face around town by all accounts. He’s the son of a Vogue fashion journalist and has modelled for Yves Saint Laurent and alongside Cara Delevingne. He’s coupled his assignments with chaotic road trips across the USA trying to hook up with ex-girlfriends and his estranged father. He’s dated model and musician Sky Ferreira, with whom he was busted for possession of heroin. Having done a stint in rehab, he appears to be living a better life, a true vegan Brooklynite.
So what of Deceiver and DIIV? It doesn’t quite hit the skyscraping heights of Sonic Youth or peak Dinosaur Jr. It has a got a great deal going for it though. Well produced by Sonny Diperri who has worked with both Nine Inch Nails and My Bloody Valentine in the past, those bands musical are DNA are audible in DIIV’s work. They’ve got the pallid face and Fender vibe going on too as referenced above and having checked out a couple of clips of them on Youtube, I’m not sure I’d bother with a gig – there’s a bit of a “this playing your instrument is all too much of an effort” thing.
Deceiver though has got a great deal going for it. I was in Rough Trade today when and it was pretty bracing when the opening track Horsehead came on at a decent volume. There’s a bit of muscle there and the vocals sufficiently multi-tracked to stand up in the mix. We’ve got some interplay between the guitars.
Skin Game references his substance issues:
Sell me to the spoon I’m cashing in
fallng out tear me down, hang me up,
strung out to please the king in metropolitan’s Sackler wing
It could sound grim but again the soaring harmonies and upbeat tempo sweeten the morphine pill.
For The Guilty has that My Bloody Valentine/Loveless let’s all hammer our tremolo arms at once draggy effect going on. Their influences remain evident but don’t weigh them down, the featherlight For The Guilty floats by.
The culmination is Blankenship where the pace quickens with a motorik backbeat for a protest against climate change denier and ex-CEO of Massey Mining. A candidate for the Senate, he served a year in prison after a safety cover-up around the Upper Big Branch explosion which tragically killed 29 miners. Whilst he remains unknown in the UK, he seems a right charmer, a man for our ages.
There’s a lovely bonus 7″ single with the marbled Rough Trade vinyl. It contains a couple of covers, one of which is Cow by Sparklehorse. From their 1995 Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot LP, I was chatting to Brix Smith Start earlier in the year about the late great Mark Linkous. This tempted me to revisit the album and DIIV certainly do this wonderful album justice.
Deceiver has grown on me the more that I’ve played it. It is undeniably greater than the sum of its obvious influences but when it is achieved with such aplomb, to hell with that.