It’s kind of ironic that the press release of Deerhunter’s eighth LP Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? states that the band had exhausted itself with nostalgia—a “toxic concept,” because the shiniest parts of the album do, in fact, come from nostalgia. Maybe not from the band members themselves, but certainly from the listeners aware of Deerhunter’s almost two-decade-long career. Simply, the most appealing sounds on the latest album are the ones that sound like old Deerhunter.
“Death in Midsummer” really kicks off near its conclusion when a distorted guitar and sawtooth synth are coupled with lead singer Bradford Cox’s ethereal vocals. It sounds like Cryptograms era Deerhunter when it wasn’t afraid to raise noisey hell.
The beginning of the song featuring Cate Le Bon—who also plays double duty as the producer of the album—on harpsichord is also sonically pleasing, but drags on a little too long if you listen to the album a few times. So does the second track “No One’s Sleeping,” which has an electronic instrumental that sounds like a post-punk version of The Beatles’ “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” You know, circusy, but slightly irritating as it overstays its welcome.
Next comes “Greenpoint Gothic” a synthy interlude that almost sounds a bit like a Talking Heads intro. It’s a cool little jam clearly constructed in the studio with mixing tricks. A better interlude is “Tarnung,” with its ghostly tenor sax and Le Bon’s angelic vocals.
The next two tracks, “Element” and “What Happens to People,” almost grabbed me, but they were ultimately forgettable, fitting in the realm of generic indie pop and seeming to lack passion. “What Happens to People” kind of sounds like a B-side track to Microcastle so it really just made me want to listen to older Deerhunter.
Don’t get me wrong here; Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? isn’t a bad album. It’s far superior than a lot of the recycled crap that’s sure to come later in the year. But when the band members state they’re done with nostalgia, I’m expecting something better than a few songs that harken back to the band’s halcyon days. I think that press statement made me find reasons to dislike most of the album, which is a little disheartening, but that’s the way it is I guess.
On a more positive note, “Plains” is a fantastic little tune that combines all the right elements of Deerhunter. It’s groovy, psychedelic, harsh at times, and genuinely enjoyable. The lyrics are also blissfully mysterious and it make me wonder whether or not Cox still no longer writes his lyrics down before recording. Still, they come off as rather stream of consciousness much like the rest of the album.