By Jack Harding, Second Year English
The art-rock eccentrics bring their latest record Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? to Bristol, complete with their trademark chaos.
Deerhunter’s live shows are notoriously unpredictable– from viral arguments with hecklers to an impromptu hour-long cover of ‘My Sharona’, frontman Bradford Cox has proved an enduring eccentric in the face of the increasingly unremarkable landscape that is indie-rock. Yet with their eighth album, the americana-inspired Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? released in January, the band brought new weight to their music. Shrouded in the death of longtime bassist Joshua Fauver, the record proved a more meditative effort from the group known for their fuzzed-out, psych-rock sound. Now taking the album on a European tour, their Bristol show reimagined fan favourites alongside a slew of new material.
Opening the set with ‘Death In Midsummer’, Cox’s oddball charm proved relentlessly engaging. Throwing aside a single leather glove in time to join the band for a fizzing guitar solo, he proved adept at channeling the band’s controlled chaos. The new songs certainly benefited from being played live: the punchier performances let them breathe in a way they don’t on record.
The songs that landed best were inevitably the older cuts– much of the set was made up of fan favourites from 2011’s Halcyon Digest. The huge chorus of ‘Helicopter’ and the anthemic ‘Desire Lines’ proved especially popular with the Bristol crowd, despite some persistent technical issues. Cox’s bumblings about an inflatable skeleton and an avant-garde 70’s cinema were warmly received, and by the sax freak-out at the end of ‘Coronado’ it was clear that Deerhunter hadn’t lost the propulsive energy that made much of their early material so popular.
Closing out with a reimagined version ‘He Would Have Laughed’ – a tribute to the late Jay Reatard – the band were on good form, confidently working lulled melodies into a frenzy of noise before reducing it back down to a single kick drum. While some of the sentimentality was lost in the swathes of loops and feedback, it was interesting to see Deerhunter update some of their best-loved material. The results were mostly triumphant; through rippling soundscapes of echoes and distortion, Deerhunter staked their claim as one of the most enduring rock bands to emerge from the 2000’s.
Featured Image: Natalie Beddows/Epigram