Album Review: Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared

Monday 07th, January 2019 / 12:09
By Jamila Pomeroy

DeerhunterWhy Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared
4AD

If a woman, man, human, or human-like creature were to immerse themselves into the strange tidal wave that was 2018, they’d be sure to emerge with the heavy netting of the uncertain future, gooey unknown substances put forth by the mainstream media and an uncomfortable anxiety-forming itch that closely resembles that of sea lice. If after taking a long, hot and soapy shower, this being were to form a band, name it Deerhunter and release an album with the intent of recreating that tidal wave… you might find yourself wondering why the heck they thought the desert was the birthplace of the wave, let alone the ocean. These are the feelings evoked from listening to Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared, the latest Deerhunter album. With an ocean of possibilities for the band, who hasn’t released an album in four years, we are left instead with a wading pool. You know, the kind where you aren’t allowed to dive or else you’ll hit your head on the bottom.

For fans in love with catchy guitar-driven psychedelic rock and dreamy shoegaze, this isn’t your new 2019 anthem. However, for fans married to the more bizarre and experimental personalities of Deerhunter, your strange container of sound has arrived and it’s ready to take your ears on an unexpected and avantgarde journey. This is a brand new era of Deerhunter.

Beginning with the first song, “Death in Midsummer,” you are greeted with a repetitive harpsichord riff that sounds slightly like the background music to some Shakespearean play – is this why it’s called “Death in Midsummer”? Perhaps we’ll never know, but what we do know is that the repetitive nature and eventual blown out horn sounds like a locomotive on acid. Ah, maybe this is the sonic depiction of the Thomas the Tank Engine, “Yellow Submarine”, Shakespearean hybrid cartoon that was never made. Unfortunately in this case, it wasn’t made for a reason. The album goes on in this nature until about song number five, with “What Happens to People?” This a closer match to its sonic predecessors: dreamy, flowy, experimental and full of wanderlust. If the album were to start here, it would feel less confusing and more reflective of previous albums, contributing to the cohesive essence of the band. Instead, the first half has us confused as to what era we are living in, breeding questions like: Is “No One’s Sleeping” an unreleased track of The Kinks’ recording session in 1977 Berlin? Could this be the soundscape of another frightening Yoko Ono performance piece?

Like a forgetful sun-drenched and dehydrated surfer who has smoked too much weed, “Deerhunter forgets the questions and makes up completely unrelated answers directed at their non-existence. It gets up, walks around, it records itself in several strategic geographic points across North America. It comes home, restructures itself and goes back to bed to avoid the bad news.” While this may have been intended to be a selling point in review, bad news is bad news, and for a band with eight LPs under their belt, there is no way to make finding your confused, lost, red-eyed uncle sound like a sexy Friday night. Coming from an ear in love with Deerhunter’s early days, the album Microcastle in particular, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared feels too far removed from the band’s true essence. In replacement of a cohesive concept album, we are left with something that feels like a slightly disappointing goodie bag of plastic toys from a children’s birthday party: not nearly as mature or quality of a gift as hoped, but still a gift nonetheless. This could have something to do with the band’s recording process, which has shifted from real vintage amplification to pure digitized chrome, plugged straight into the mixing desk. Even then, the guitars are an afterthought and there is a clear shift in focus to electromechanical and synthetic sounds. While the intention may have been to align closer with the now electronic- and hip-hop-focused music market, the album fails to feel relevant.

Encompassing the many unexpected moods of a hormone saturated pre-teen, the album bounces through eras of the known, while breeding implanted memories and fake feelings of nostalgia. “Detournement” speaks through analog robotic tongues, greeting us with the words “Good morning to Japan and the eastern sunrise over these majestic cliffs and the vultures circling,” in a voice that belongs in an ‘80s sci-fi. While the memory of a visit to this robotic dreamland may be about as real as Conan O’Brien’s new Japanese family, we are left feeling we were there: a point in which we push these theoretical falsehoods onto the first half of the album, zapping ourselves into a new dimension where we can pretend it didn’t happen. Here in this other dimension, “Futurisim” resorts all hope. A song that holds the much-needed sameness of an expected Deerhunter sound, encouraging us to take off our seatbelts and arrange ourselves, in comfort, to the new Deerhunter. “Futurism” carries a very shoegaze/ surfer-rock quality, overwhelmingly reminiscent to that of “Agoraphobia” off of Microcastle. This is the moment your strange, dehydrated and red-eyed uncle returns to reality, clearing all questions of insanity with a tall glass of water.

“Futurism” exclaims “your cage is what you make it, if you decorate it,” and while this may be true about life, it’s hard to decipher the strange sonic decorations and true thematic intention of Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared. We are instead left feeling a little bit like Siri made a playlist based off algorithms on a shared computer – but maybe that in itself is a perfect representation of the modern age and, ultimately, a perfect sonic depiction of the tidal wave that was 2018.