Deerhunter – Fading Frontier
Okay, here’s the thing Bradford…
Oh Jesus, this is difficult. It’s difficult because Microcastle and Halcyon Digest are two pillars of indie rock. It’s difficult because the haze of Microcastle got me through any number of days at work. It’s difficult because even though you decided to strike out in a more straight-forward, garage-rock (and the Dead, let’s not forget)-influenced direction on Monomania I still thought it was one of the best records released in 2013. Now, though, this album…
Okay, let me start off by saying something blunt. I hate Real Estate. Hate them. I feel like they’re the Coldplay to Deerhunter’s Radiohead. By this, I mean that they take everything good about Deerhunter and water it down for casual listeners to embrace and feel good about. It’s a mess of cutesy arpeggios, clean production, and vocals that substitute reverb for fog and depth. It’s Rote Indie Rock, much as Coldplay became the insufferable face of Rote Alternative Rock.
There’s too many places on Fading Frontier that sound like Real Estate. Too many moments where the haze seems to have been surgically scrubbed clean in some over-stuffed pricey studio. You invited some guests to provide music on this album, which would normally be a nice change of pace. However, in inviting members of Stereolab and Broadcast, you’ve ensured that this album, besides “All The Same” and “Snakeskin”, is powered mainly by drum machines and synths. You have, in Moses Archuleta, one of the finest drummers of the indie rock era, and yet you choose to go the route of bands that, god love them, are not Deerhunter. Instead of songs full of weird noises that are powered by hooks that you’ve made your name on, they’re mushy, meandering tracks that meld together and prove to be utterly forgettable. Out of nine songs, the two I’ve mentioned above are the only ones worth mentioning ten minutes after the end of the album. The fifteen minutes between “Breaker” and “Leather And Wood” are easily the worst fifteen minutes in either the Deerhunter or Atlas Sound discographies.
Look, I get it. You had a car accident and it gave you a new perspective on things, or some such mythos-making. It really just sounds like you decided that you wanted to abandon why people fell in love with you in the first place in favour of maybe making it onto terrestrial radio, as though that’s something people still want to do in 2015. Of course, Monomania just barely missed hitting the Top 40 and it was much better than Fading Frontier – it was noisy, it was passionate, there was some real rock n roll sentiment framing the songs. Fading Frontier has none of that. You abandoned the leather jackets and pyschotropics for…sterile synths and slick mainstream acceptance? I’m sure it works for some people, Bradford, but it sure as hell doesn’t work for you.