Deez tackles traditional geek concerns but with a darkly comic bent.
Mark Beaumont 2010
Half an hour, half the package. Merely listening to Darwin Deez’s eponymous debut robs you of the bizarre and hilarious spectacle of his live show, which features this lanky vision of a hippie Sideshow Bob performing synchronised dance routines with his backing band between numbers, like a hipster-pop Diversity. And you’d be forgiven for thinking the record itself displayed a fraction of Darwin’s capabilities, with its Bontempi beats recalling the theme to Flight of the Conchords, its cheap guitars mimicking Albert Hammond Jr and its overwhelming buzz of the bedroom.
Succumb to your inner Sebadoh, though, and the scratchiness of these ten home-made pop gems adds to their charm, and to the album’s making-of-a-cult status. Deez exhibits the songwriting panache of a Brendan Benson or Ben Folds, and this album acts as his DIY taster in the same way as the former’s One Mississippi and the latter’s work with Majosha. Singles like the Strokes-y Constellations and the brilliantly itchy Radar Detector – essentially Folds’s Jack and Sarah mating with Someday in the back of a Death Cab – feel like fully formed alt-disco hits, but the likes of Up in the Clouds and Bed Space hint at a luscious aesthetic waiting to have its fidelity heightened.
Lyrically Deez tackles the traditional bedroom geek concerns – girls, basically, and how not to land yourself one – but with a darkly comic bent. DNA finds him refusing to acknowledge the end of a relationship at all, The Suicide Song is a cheery hand-clapper that follows him on a plunge from a tall building (“On the way down I see your face / Is laughing at one of my idiot boy mistakes”) and The Bomb revels in grotesque imagery of a post-nuclear war landscape – “The sky is green / The clouds are brown / The city’s a ghost town…” – as a backdrop to Deez convincing a girl to fancy him now that he is, quite literally, the last man on Earth. Frankly, it’s amazing the album retains its collegiate pop party feel through such tongue-in-cheek devastation.
As studios close and GarageBand becomes the fount of all debut albums, expect an increase in adorable, kooky and cool little pop records like this one. As Deez inevitably ascends into the velveteen environs of professional production, let’s hope he doesn’t paper too thickly over these colourful cracks.