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Deerhunter - Cryptograms

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Artist: Deerhunter

Album: Cryptograms

Label: Kranky

Review date: Feb. 9, 2007

Has the term neo-shoegaze already been coined? I don’t really care either way, but it’s probably the most efficient way to categorize Deerhunter, the deliriously ragged and sometimes psychedelic group who have just released their mighty fine Kranky debut, Cryptograms.

I’m at the point where I’d duke it out over these guys, but I didn’t really take to them initially. First of all, why the silly name? Are they really into Michael Cimino, or do they hate fleet-footed ruminants? There’s already an indie group with “deer” in their moniker; that seems like plenty. I have a hard enough time keeping all the “black” and “wolf” acts straight – I really don’t need this shit.

Deerhunter are what garrulous music critics have come to call “art damaged,” which translates to: white kids with mod dos emulating yesterday’s junkie rock with a delay pedal or 10. At least that’s all I heard at first. Later, I came to realize that there’s a lot more going on here than borrowed bohemia. The total lack of farty dance jamz is an added bonus.

Cryptograms is a tonal wash of brisk speed kicks and seasick comedowns, the kind of thing you could lose an afternoon to. I’m already missing several: I’d pop in the disc and find myself some time later with a patch of drool on my sleeve and the feeling that I should check for my wallet. Then I’d play it again.

The basslines evoke cold sweats; the guitars are a cross between narcotic bliss and toxic shock. The vocals are nigh indistinguishable, but they sound suitably pained. Either these kids need an intervention, or they’re the most promising crew of anemic sound scuttlers since MBV.

The only song on the record that doesn’t work is “Strange Lights,” which is the musical equivalent of a burnout combing his hair to ace a job interview. I’d like to think the interview is at 7-11, and the kid is getting high ’round back afterwards.

Cryptograms is the kind of record that should be played in every teenage bedroom in America. It’d do those little fuckers good to hear their own morbid delirium properly channeled by slightly older kids with guitars. It’s probably great make out music, too.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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