Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Deerhunter - Fading Frontiers Review

“Will you tell me when you find out / How to conquer this fear / I’ve been spending too much time out / On the fading frontier”

One of many lyrical treasures found at the heart of Deerhunter’s seventh record, and one which simultaneously acts as the mission statement for Bradford Cox’s message of being the perennial outsider never wholly prepared to come in from the cold.

For it is Cox’s writings that are as elemental to the Deerhunter style as Moses Archuleta’s tight percussion or Lockett Pundt’s excitable guitarisms. They are also what have me kicking myself over never having listened to a single track by the band before this album. They had slipped into the artistic purgatory of “Bands I Don’t Have Time To Listen To But Have Heard Good Things About And Will Be Sure To Check Out At Some Point” label, along with an IMDb watchlist that is bursting at the seams and a rather empty promise I give myself to read more.

However upon hearing “Snakeskin”, a truly headstrong lead single wearing its old-school Krautrock influences on its sleeve while bringing Cox’s dark and pensive lyrics to the fore, I immediately sought to digest as much of their discography as possible before the new album dropped.

Very soon I came to a definite conclusion: 

(a)    Deerhunter are a great band
      (b)   Bradford Cox is a fascinating man

Bearing these irrefutable facts in mind, and still very much under the spell of their previous efforts, I am glad to say that this album delivers on every level. Halcyon Digest producer, Ben H. Allen, is back in the studio once more to hone the Dream Pop sounds of Atlanta’s finest Indie rockers and does so skillfully. Pundt’s energizing guitar work as well as his knack for synth melodies make every song on this record shine, with his self-penned “Ad Astra” serving as a delightfully weird highlight that gives true testament to his musicianship. Meanwhile the rhythm section holds steady throughout, with Archuleta’s elaborate drumming playing off Josh McKay’s subtle yet effective bass lines featured in such tracks as “Breakers and “Living My Life”.

The proverbial cherry on top of course is Cox;  his outlook, observations and songcraft are the real meat of the record. This album excels because of its ability to balance the band's quirky, complex instrumentals with the abstract beauty of his songwriting. Typically, it is rife with the self-deprecating and often verging-on-nihilistic lyrics that have become a staple of the band's work, as well as frequent references to a recent car crash that left him hospitalized late last year,  which make for some pretty bleak subject matter. However it seems that in spite of this Cox has gained a newfound perspective on things. Lines like "take your handicaps/ Channel them and feed them back/ Until they become your strengths" present a more favourable viewpoint on life; one that not necessarily endorses complete self acceptance, rather a blissful defiance of whichever predicament life itself may throw upon you to keep you down.

That is certainly a message I can get behind.

Adding yet another jewel to the Indie Pop crown they have come to sport, Deerhunter have produced another excellent album here, and gained a new fan in the process. Get this album in any form available and you won’t be disappointed.

Jack McGlone

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