Deerhunter, although having been around for well over a decade, are a band I only really discovered within the last summer. I obviously knew who they were but they’d never really registered with me. That is until my mate Isaac played me ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ from their 2008 release Microcastle whilst getting ready in our apartment in Barcelona to travel to the Primavera site. I was hooked on Bradford Cox’s world-weary and lackadaisical vocal style combined with that fucking awesome neo-krautrock outro (which I would argue is one of the best outros ever recorded). I decided from that moment on that I had to spend sometime investing in this band and it seems that this discovery coincided quite well with the release of their new LP Fading Frontier.
Opener ‘All the Same’ is a misleading opener to the album in some respects as it lulls you into thinking that the album shares the same kooky eccentricities that the effortlessly queer and fantastical Bradford Cox injected into his previous releases. The reality of the rest of the album is that it is possibly the most accessible LP in the whole of Deerhunter’s seven album back catalogue.
If we didn’t know Cox to be the morbid weirdo that he is, we might mistake this track for some cloyingly twee song, created to make you vomit up a dainty little sound puddle of jangly guitars and a catchy refrain.
‘Living my Life’ is a catchy dreampop song, a little bit like something from the Cocteau Twins later releases. If we didn’t know Cox to be the morbid weirdo that he is we might mistake this track for some cloyingly twee song, created to make you vomit up a dainty little sound puddle of jangly guitars and a catchy refrain.
This morbidity is evident in ‘Duplex Planet’ when Bradford Cox sings of “going back again to the old folk’s home” and when he croons “after the body’s gone the scent remains”. It’s good to see that he hasn’t stopped obsessing about death and decay, even though the instrumentation suggests otherwise.
The eerie use of synths on ‘Take Care’ and ‘Leather and Wood’ are very reminiscent of The Cure during their Pornography phase as they haunt the listener with an abject but familiar soundscape, that is as obtuse as it is enrapturing.
The main selling point of the album has to be ‘Snakeskin’, the first single released from this LP. On first listen it appears to be standard Indie guitar rock fodder but when we listen to the lyrics it is insidiously sinister. With images of crucifixion and references to tormented mental health, the track simpers with perverted malice that is understated by its musical backing.
Penultimate track ‘Ad Astra’ is a shoegaze masterpiece that references everything from Blonde Redhead to Slowdive’s Souvlaki in its cosmic construction of aural beauty. It reminds us Deerhunter fans just where Deerhunter are coming from, as it is an oddball track that perfectly compliments the oddball persona of Cox and his troupe of melody makers.
In the final track ‘Carrion’ Cox pleads “What’s wrong with me?” in the desperate tones of a dejected and shunned misfit. The song ends Fading Frontier with the dramatic urgency of Bowie’s ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’ from Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, which is quite possibly the best final track of an album.
While the album is not indicative of the rest of Deerhunter’s back catalogue it is a delightful treat to listen to and re-listen to some more. It is the sort of album that sets Deerhunter apart from the rest and if it poaches Cox and co. a new generation of listeners, that surely can’t be a bad thing.