Saturday Night: Deerhunter Unveils Ghostly Art-Pop at Slim's
There's a certain ghoulishness, something otherworldly and ghostlike, to the Deerhunter aesthetic -- the skeletal physique of bandleader/frontman/guitarist Bradford Cox probably has something to do with it -- that made seeing this band on Halloween weekend mysteriously appropriate. Undivided attention to this band yields haunting results, and even fleeting attention yields somewhat unnerving thoughts and visions. Saturday night at Slim's, where costumed concertgoers were in the minority, there was also something eerily plain to behold -- a four-piece pop band from Atlanta.
Four albums into forging a sonic adventure all their own, Cox and company -- drummer Moses Archuleta, center-staged bassist Josh Fauver, and fearlessly mustachioed guitarist Lockett Pundt -- have earned a cultish street cred dealing in the traditions of punk and textural art-jamming at once. One of the first examples of this came on "Desire Lines" (from the recently released and deliciously weird-rockin' full-length Halcyon Digest), which initially measures out a sunny pop sound bordering on something out of the Arcade Fire book, with a stomping bass drum that seemed simple enough. Eventually the song became a more disheveled wail, with guitars painting abstractly over one another, and a meandering outro for the headbangers.
Cox is clearly a man of vision, but he is also a man of dry witticisms and confrontational, tongue-deep-in-cheek banter. During one interruption caused by a technical issue, Cox told us "you're getting something real special tonight." He then addressed bandmate Lockett Pundt, who "decided to be a big boy and grow a moustache." Somewhere in there, charm wiggled its way into the mix with steadfast sarcasm.
Cox also gave openers Real Estate a proper send off, this show was the the New Jersey beach noodlers' last on their current tour with Deerhunter. The band members tried to explain the situation at the end of their set, but Cox roamed out onstage with the words "No, no, no." (Cox handles these moments, guys.) "Tomorrow they embark on a failed journey to Japan. They're gonna be turned away at the border because they don't have visas," he joked, eventually adding "mazel tov," and "don't let panic run your life." And then he went on.
"Fuck real estate, you've destroyed the economy! ... What happens when they can't pay their mortgages?"
The look on Real Estate lead singer Martin Courtney's nonplussed face said something along the lines of, "Oh. You're welcome?"
And about Real Estate: This upstart four-piece also knows how to flesh out a jam in unexpected ways. The driving force is, perhaps ironically, the lazy guitar musings of Martin Courtney and Mathew Mondanile, which we associate more with the porches of the Jersey shore than anything MTV would have you contemplate. Their single "Beachcomber" has them at their most "them," nostalgia displacing any punk credo that might otherwise be detected.
Overheard in the crowd: "If it's not on vinyl, I don't wanna hear it." ... "Hey Real Estate, can you up the price on my house?" ... "Hide yo' wife, hide yo kids..." about 30 times, from a guy dressed up like this. Nice.
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