Review Summary: Darwin “Deez” Smith is one quirky mammajamma, that’s for sure.
I think there’s been a moment for all of us in which we’ve taken music a little too
seriously. For instance, remember when you argued vehemently over whether your favourite band’s new record was overproduced? Or maybe when you endured hours of some obscure experimental, avant-garde album in a last-ditch effort to understand exactly why it’s “almost worth the mounds of hyperbolic claims it receives”? Perhaps you’ve simply became so frustrated with someone’s (read: Channing Freeman’s) ridiculous musical tastes that you spouted uncontrollable amounts of typed, defamatory abuse? Don’t worry; as I said, we’ve all
been there. It’s during moments like these in which you need to take a step back from all the pretentious, superfluous bull*** and place music back into perspective - and this is exactly where Mr. Darwin Smith comes in.
Deez is a pretty peculiar dude with an equally unorthodox approach to music. His odd nuances are more or less represented in his choice of instrument: a regular Stratocaster strung with only four strings and played in his very own, secret tuning (I know… what the fu
ck). Consequently, the jangly '60s sounding chord voicings scattered throughout are irregular and refreshing, bringing a distinct edge of originality to this eponymous debut. Opening with “Constellations”, the song showcases his minimal axe playing style wonderfully with its syncopated rhythms and funky muted string work. The first line – “twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are
” – makes it blatantly obvious that lyrics aren’t the high point of Darwin Deez
; yet despite their childish leanings, the playful context in which they’re performed allows you to overlook their simplicity and sometimes even appreciate their meaning.
Whilst his guitar – combined with basic drum patterns, some auxiliary percussion and a forgettable bass groove – form the backbone to the majority of the tracks, it’s his vocals that provide the classic infectious charm of which characterizes the album. Possessing a wonderfully carefree voice (not particularly dissimilar to that of Minus the Bear
’s Jake Snider) and a knack for writing unusual-yet-catchy melodies, Deez makes light of even the most brutal topics. “The Suicide Song” begins with an outrageously bouncy guitar riff and goes on to describes the thoughts of a man who’s falling to his death whilst his lover watches from below. Similarly confronting is “The Bomb Song”, which details two lovers’ struggle to survive in a post-nuclear explosion: the song opens with an undeniably genius melody and closes with perhaps the most poignant moment of the whole record, in which Deez pleads “Say you love me now, please, say it now the sky is green
Darwin Deez’s particular brand of lo-fi, bedroom indie-pop isn’t ground breaking – and that is going to be the deal breaker for most high brow critics – but everything about it is so cute and endearing that it simply doesn’t matter. Take it at face value (“DNA” will be a strong contender for catchiest song of the year) or penetrate through its bright, bubbly façade in search of the hidden meanings that exist within many of these three minute songs; either way, Deez ain’t taking this too seriously, and neither should you.