Review Summary: Weird Era Cont. is an interesting and flushed back-to-basics escape from Microcastle's thought-provoking escapism.
Had Weird Era Cont.
, assuming the band had never penned their stirring Microcastle
, audiences might not have “gotten it.” It’s a notably looser record for the band, replacing their earlier self-seriousness with a glowing liveliness, but the techniques remain relatively similar; where there is growth, listeners might only see a stagnant idea. But packaged with Microcastle
, recorded in an eleven day session as frontman Brandon Cox’s response to the original album's leak, Weird Era Cont.
is an interesting and flushed back-to-basics escape from Microcastle
’s thought-provoking escapism.
While Weird Era Cont.
’s history undermines what is for all intents and purposes one of the year’s best albums (this is by no means a bonus disc), it seems only fitting for a band that continues to float just outside of orbit, creating good, sometimes astounding music and being gifted the luxury of understated approval. Even Cox’s response to the leak seems almost too good to be true (aside from creating a whole new album’s worth of material, he issued an apology for a rant he made on his blog, continuing to be one of the rare eccentric frontmen who don’t distract from the band), a for-the-consumer approach that pools over into the album’s for-the-fan charm. It made me excited to purchase an album again, something everyone over-analyzed anticipating In Rainbows
that dulled the sensation. For the first time in a very long time, I feel like a fan and not just an audience.
Packed between the squeal of a tape deck record button and the loop as the tape runs off the reel, most of these numbers are pop rock tunes gussied up with dense, meticulously layered production, but Deerhunter smartly shift away from Microcastle
’s minimalism and prep each track with plenty of gratifying nods to styles. The noise-pop influence is most readily apparent, turning in such lo-fi rockers as “Vox Celeste” and the hollowed drum kick in “VHS Dream.” On “Operation,” they deploy a sand-like grittiness to the cymbals and guitar licks, cleverly toying with disquieting but undeniably catchy wordplay (when Cox breathlessly entails, “Cover you ears / you’re not going to like what you’re going to hear / I hate you,” a voice floats over “ears” with “eyes”).
Even when they’re not really doing anything, Deerhunter manage to overstep the pitfalls of filler. The erratic percussion in “Cicadas” is kept on track by the post rock ambling that Moses Archuleta manages to cover with his nearly impromptu, messy shuffling. The cowbell that permeates through the instrumental “Slow Swords” is transfixing (the low reverb on the acoustic guitar sounds like humming, another interesting trick), though it’s the whistling-noodling of the title track that seems like the album’s biggest gamble, simply looping guitars until it rolls abruptly into the organic bass-strumming of “Moon Witch Cartridge.” On the album's beautiful centerpiece, the poetic "Vox Humana," the dreamy shoegaze so beautifully accentuates Cox's lyrics that the effect is heartbreaking ("I haunted a basket-maker's shop because I had nowhere to go").
The album’s one crossover track, “Calvary Scars II / Aux Out,” is Weird Era Cont.
best example of for-the-fan articulation. On the other end of the spectrum from its scenery-chewing, slow-burning Microcastle
counterpart, “Calvary Scars II” is a passionately fused rouser that explodes with layers and piercing wind chimes, churning tension into a thick, painless ten minutes. Even the song’s core lyrics (“Crucified on a cross / in front of all my closest friends”) take on a different meaning in this new context, and it’s clear that Deerhunter realize both sides of the same argument: those who collapse in on themselves and those who simply need the therapeutic release. This understanding of their core audience and unwillingness to simply to play to one strength is what makes Deerhunter’s growth so fascinating to listen to, because we seem to grow with them, too.
Going back to Weird Era Cont.
’s for-the-fan charm, Deerhunter have successfully managed to push the envelope on what exactly makes them unique in a continuously evolving landscape. This is their most accessible record to date, shedding most of the oppressive overtones that made their earlier albums sensationalized, otherworldly soundtracks to ordinary, stranger than fiction life. Microcastle
established a band ready to commit to their art and on Weird Era Cont.
they show they really have nothing left to prove. The album also happens to be their most alienating, a rewarding trip because of the journey it took to get here. To “get” the fun, you had to see the sights.
It’s also the most fun when stoned. Pass the joint.