In my opinion Thee More Shallow’s More Deep Cuts has one of the most stimulating album covers of all time. The art features splashes of yellow and off-white, with disturbing sketches of two small frogs, one with a wooden bow and the other without. Both the frogs have arrows sticking out of their throats, each little green being splashed with dark blood in a manner that suggests they were drawn by a comic book artist. The image is powerful and depressing, but somewhat funny at the same time. The frog holding the bow has a blank expression on his face, with his head cocked back like he was about to laugh, as if he was taken down towards the end of a grisly battle. This drawing says much of the band’s sound. It’s a depressing, but even then slightly fun, series of guitar noise, poppy hooks and nervous drum beats. Thee More Shallows don’t exactly have an original sound, but their emotionally heavy blend of indie rock, electronica and noise pop is divine. Parts sound like a shyer, less sexually active Xiu Xiu while others echo the critically acclaimed Lo-Fi of Grandaddy.
The album starts with two complete opposites, Post-Present and Pre-Present, the first a short, fast paced and slightly unnatural feeling electronica song and the second a slow, sad Grandaddy esque ballad. Singer/Songwriter Dee Kesler uses the second song’s title as an odd pun, as Pre-Present makes references to the type of presents you give and receive (and I’m pretty sure prostitution) rather than the time period, like many would assume. Listening deeper, towards the CD’s shiny outer edge, one will find many ballads along the lines of Pre-Present, each as emotional as the next and each with lyrics just as grim/whimsical. An example of this would be the (uplifting) Ave Grave, a song about heaven and mass burials, complete with the sounds of synthesizers ascending to god, as well an acoustic guitar and an enjoyable drum sound.
But none of the songs are as sinister sounding as the disturbing tribal build-up of Cloistrophobia. The tune’s instrumentation sounds like Godspeed You! Black Emperor on meds, complete with a heart pounding drum build-up and a dark half time “chorus”, with Kesler singing loud and clear above the heavy rolling toms.
Originally Posted by Cloistrophobia
When you arrive drive the five blocks to her former home
Take her shoes out of your suitcase and put them on
Place your hat cockeyed upon your balding head
Oh, and dance a little dance to celebrate
He sings, voice cold, but emotional, bathing in the song’s thick atmosphere. The song appears to be about a man who returns to the home of his dead mother, to celebrate the death of a woman who tormented him. The band’s sound then makes a left turn into a paranoid Eels esque disjointed indie rock song. When the vocals break over the chorus with moans of “Hey buddy hey, Hey buddy please, quiet down, your killing me” one becomes flooded with emotions of despair and love, despair for such an emotional climax and love for a band they may hardly even know. The confusing mumblings of 2 AM’s schizophrenic storyteller make a perfect veil for Dee lay down a rich guitar line, lighting up distraught squeals of feedback as the song fades into nothingness.
Overall More Deep Cuts is a haunting, but otherwise surreal outing for the disturbed mind. Thee More Shallows takes indie pop’s wit and catch and injects the bleeding heart of a few sad, sad men. Everything from the comic/tragic cover art to ghostly samples dug up by rhythm section lords, Chavo Fraser and Jason Gonzales are perfect. Thee More Shallows make wonderful, emotionally twisted, atmospheric indie rock for the dying frog soldiers in all of us.