Deerhunter look outside the self on Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
Recording: Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
★★★1/2 (3.5/5 stars)
One could be mean and say that Bradford Cox is to art what Donald Trump is to money, that is, he completely socializes through it, for it, on behalf of it.
Between his outspoken asexuality, avowed non-relationship stance, and a fuzzed-out minor masterpiece entitled Monomania that climaxed with, well, “Monomania,” the guy seemed like a classic case of the rock artist who wants his every move paid attention to but doesn’t want to serve an audience. That would be nice.
Following the tragic death of longtime Deerhunter bassist Josh Fauver in November, Cox has explicitly expressed a desire in interviews to progress forward in life with his band, the only long-term relationship that matters, and on Deerhunter’s eighth album, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, he explores the opposite of monomania, a widespread concern for the people in his radius, which may even now encompass the world. But Monomania turned the desire to create into some sick of perceived sickness, and now a presumably healthier Cox considers it the key to his only pledged romance, with his fellow creators.
Death hangs over Disappeared in a way that frames the title to suggest, “why [Fauver] and not all of us?” And on the most immediate inclusion, “What Happens to People?” Cox suggests that death happens much sooner than our bodies say so. “They fade out of view” is one answer, “their dreams turn to dark” is another, and “I can’t remember your face / It’s lost to me” is a nightmare that sums up the logical conclusion of 2010’s false-memory simulation haze Halcyon Digest.
With highlights less outwardly enticing as “Snakeskin” (which invited INXS comparisons while Matty Healy was still incubating as a star) or “Duplex Planet” (much more classic DH) from 2015’s transitional, lightened Fading Frontier, the new album is dreamier but more consistently achieving its goals, which are further from stardom than ever. Passing for hooks here are the lead harpsichord on “Death in Midsummer,” the synths of miniature Neu! jam “Greenpoint Gothic” and strange percussion devices of “Element” are motorik baroque for Cox’s fellow Stereolab spelunkers, the latter even with call-response invocations of the title from his bandmates.
It’s been a while since Deerhunter approached the urgency of their 2008-2013 half-decade with the swirling trilogy of Microcastle, Digest, and Monomania, but Disappeared could be a grower; it’s pretty without any of their emptyish proper debut Cryptograms’ blinding haze. But Moses Archuleta’s forthright drums are higher in the mix than ever, Cox’s own voice floats over it, and the variegated mixture of strums and synths utilized to achieve melodic gestalt here accrue some kind of warm glow more tangible than the more “narcissistic” (as Cox puts it) lo-fi efforts of their youth could muster. They’re proudly small and together this time, rather than stretching beyond communication distance with the people they’re trying to reach. If that’s not serving their audience, I don’t know what is.