The unofficial title of Deerhunter’s first full-length CD was Turn It Up Faggot. Once you’ve made that sort of artistic statement, where do you go from there? Despite the criticism…up, apparently. For example, consider the music e-zine Pitchfork. I’ve commented before in these pages about how critical their reviewers can be, but from the outset Pitchfork has put a positive frame on the Atlanta-based five-piece.
Deerhunter is fronted by Bradford Cox, a knife-thin singer who appears to be anorexic but is said to have a digestive disorder. He is known for appearing on stage in a dress (he told a reporter he wore them as a child) sometimes with blood, or a reasonable facsimile, smeared on his hands and arms. When not singing like a normal bloke, his voice can devolve into a series of hoots and chirps and shrieks. Sometimes he just sticks the microphone in his mouth and makes noise. Then there is at least one image posted online of Cox onstage, dress lifted, getting oral sex, or a reasonable facsimile, from the band’s guitarist. So, with that as Deerhunter’s public persona, how’s the music?
Not bad, actually. In fact, Deerhunter can be as engaging as they are challenging. For a self-proclaimed ambient punk band, Deerhunter’s music is far more organized than I had expected. It rolls out as a friendly, almost dreamy mashup of Bowie and ’60s Britpop. There is the occasional noisy, lusty reverb-laden guitar played almost in the style of Tom Verlaine, a ’70s art-rock pioneer unknown to most modern club audiences. There are intelligent things going on with rhythm and meter coupled with wry, introspective lyrics: “My days were through, it was too late/ My greatest fear, I organized/ Into something more realized/ And now what’s left I get to spend/ Knowing that it’s about to end.” Dress or no dress, who hasn’t been there before?
DEERHUNTER, Casbah, Friday November 28, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $14.