Let’s talk about the state of rock music in 2019. Is it dead? Is it gone? Is it in need of being renewed? The truth is that rock music’s lease in current mainstream culture has long-expired and the powers that be, have given up on trying to market angst and loud guitars to the masses. Enter Deerhunter.
Bradford Cox, as standoffish as he’s ever been, is not your typical rock star. He has made a career out of borrowing from the Underground Music Icon’s playlist, from glamorous photoshoots for his solo record “Parallax” as Atlas Sound to his alleged beef with Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins (something he has in common with Stephen Malkmus from Pavement).
Deerhunter’s last album, Fading Frontier, felt like a victory lap for a band that has long acquired success in no small part to doing whatever they felt like doing and speaking out about obscure topics and news that reflected their commitment to non-traditional values and the due rising of queer culture to the mainstream. From 2007’s “Loveless”-influenced “Cryptograms” to 2013’s nervous breakdown album “Monomania”. Making a Deerhunter album sounds like no small feat and they’re still together, after all these years, continuing to make whatever music they feel like doing. An honest, welcoming approach that directly contradicts the status quo of aesthetic trends.
Light of Music
Co-produced by prodigious artist Cate LeBon, “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?” continues on the path of a band that has grown comfortable in their own skin and are destined to keep making music for a long time, churning out album after album of unprecedented greatness. The state of rock music in 2019 might be uncertain, but Deerhunter are the underground luminaries nobody asked for, but thank god we received.
The album begins with a harpsichord and Cox’s vocals telling tales about people who used to be in factores, but are now in the ground. Cox is as political as ever, and more confident in his approach. On “What Happens to People”, there’s a gentleness unprecedented in the band’s catalogue, with a glamorous piano and a 80’s-indebted pad that feels as baroque as anything Arcade Fire did in their early days, but even as they create a gentle space of their own, they create beautiful rage in call-and-response highlight “Element”. They even leave space for a mainly instrumental track in “Greenpoint Gothic” and have co-singer Lockett Pundt return for lead vocal duties on the bright “Tarnung”.
According to interviews and press releases, he was deeply influenced by Whitney Houston during the making of the album, and it shows on album standout “Plains”, which begins with a processed drum loop that is not dissimilar to Houston own “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”. The song references iconic actor James Dean, who filmed his last job in Marfa, TX, where part of the album was made. “Oh James, you have no reason to stay in these plains”, Cox sings in an empathetic tone. Deerhunter has no reason to stay on these plains, but we’re ever-so-thankful of their choice.