Darwin Deez, concoctor of Marmite-effect earworm pop, is back with second album Songs For Imaginative People. The title says it all: here comes Darwin Deez, one of life's outsiders. So outside, he's outside the outsiders that actually get noticed as outsiders. Trying to align himself with the arty-folk in a manner so calculated that his songs scream 'artifice' and 'charlatan.' And yes, we know that Darwin Deez is a band, but Darwin Deez the man, IS Darwin Deez the band.
It begins well enough, with (800 HUMAN), sounding a little like short-lived New Yorkers The Blow (who morphed into DFA-dwellers Yacht), in a forceful, playful analysis of "what it's like to be human," complete with impassioned, well-placed cursing and cascading melodies. Similarly, 'You Can't Be My Girl,' with its punchy hollering as percussion is one of the triumphs of the album. It's one of the occasions in which Deez decides to work with his own melodies, rather than battling ineffectually against it. With its core message of of "I think I love you, how horrible," and lines like "your sneering Gorbachev" and "I am sober as a marble," it's studiously anti-love, without bludgeoning the point home.
Completing a trio of quality, is 'Good To Lose,' with its chaotic guitar lines, a slacker's anthem, a frustrated soul trapped in oppression: "I'm free to be / asleep 'til three / I let my laundry / pile up on me." When Deez lets the melody drive him, rather than his own desire to colour outside the lines, he creates a whole bundle of perfectly pleasant alt-pop. Off the wall, buoyant and enticing. Outside of those moments, though, what follows is simply a tired variation of a theme, in which Deez has but one dimension and that dimension is "look mum, no hands!" Slowly, the album zones out on itself, descends into space noodles on 'All In The Wrists' and ends with a whimper, on the directionless 'Chelsea's Hotel.'
There is much to love about Darwin Deez, on the surface. Those ramshackle synths and off-kilter melodies, that innocent pop sound, that sound of hope, jaded by time spent living on this earth. Their music often contains all the signifiers of classic, off-beat American indie but there's something so terribly off-putting about them. And it's not just the main man's hair and the 'trying so hard not to look hip, I look hip' look he's got going on. That's too easy.
Everything about Songs For Imaginative People just sounds like he's trying too hard. He sounds like he's trying too hard to sound like he's not trying hard at all. And those, as we know, are the worst kind of try-hards. After half an hour of listening to Darwin Deez cramming a lyric into a lyrical space barely half its own size, just because he can and not because it does the song, or the listener any good, you begin to tire of those self-conscious quirks. This is the sound of a songwriter stuck in one gear and running out of gas. Fast.
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