Darwin Deez: Songs For Imaginative People
It would have been easy – all too easy – to think you had Darwin Deez figured out. He’s the irrepressible pop auteur who broke into spontaneous, synchronized dances on stage. The mischievous musical sprite who wrote songs that were as infectious as they were offbeat; songs like “Constellations” and “Radar Detector” which became bona fide hits and lodged themselves in the brains for days. He’s the one who brought some much needed verve and colour to the dreary indie landscape and became one of our most off-kilter and much-loved popstars with his self-titled debut LP, released in 2010. But scratch a little deeper beneath the surface and you would have found more depth and melancholy than quirky first appearances might necessarily have suggested, and a sonic ambition which reached far beyond merely writing solid gold anthems in waiting.
His 2011, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” sampling, “Wonky Beats” mix-tape saw him trading intricately rhythmic rhymes with Chiddy Bang, Das Racist and Dev Hynes and set the stage to expect the unexpected from Darwin. Now comes the sophomore album, “Songs For Imaginative People”, another bold, mind-stretching move.
There’s the same density of hummable tunes and idiosyncratic lyricism but, this time around, the scope is wider, the ideas more ingenious and abundant, the finished product revealing new textures and layers of sonic and lyrical genius upon each repeat listen. Whereas Darwin’s debut deliberately restricted himself to rhythm guitar, bass and electronic drums, here Darwin is going widescreen, amping up production values and exploring new avenues, such as his newfound love for guitar shredding. Classic writing, sonic experimentalism, rhythm, and blues inform his palette of sounds, with the perfect balance of virtuosity and simplicity, not afraid to blend more extreme noise terror with layers of cushioning harmonies to echo the emotional quality of human experience.
Entirely self-recorded and produced in Asheville, North Carolina, then mixed in London with Charlie Andrew (Alt-J, Eugene McGuiness), the resulting album is the most fascinating and thrilling record you’ll hear next year, as Darwin flexes his muscles and moves into unashamedly uncharted territory. It’s there lyrically, as he explores his solidarity with existentialism (on first single “Free (The Editorial Me”)), and, uses the schizoid blast of “(800) HUMAN” as a “prayer for deliverance from the existential inauthenticity of laziness and submission”. His penchant for irresistible melodies is present and correct too, as in “You Can’t Be My Girl”, which is, in essence, a glorious paean to a damaged, and impossible, relationship “you’re sweet but you’re messed up/ your best friend is a red cup”. Whilst, equally anthemic, ‘Redshift’ cleverly uses cosmological metaphor to poignantly dissect the pain of break-up, “Was there a big bang that I just missed? Did an explosion cause a redshift? ‘cos you’re moving away from me, what did I do? The Universe is just an empty space without you”. This is a record so obviously connected with the artist’s life, a record any soul can feel on every level. Witness also “Chelsea’s Hotel”, where rhyming couplets representing the romantic polarity of pursuit pinch the skin akin to stretching the sonnets of John Donne: “I’m not leaving, this is just the place, I’ve been homeless since the dimples on her simple face. And I’ve spent my fortune, I’ve torn the town apart, to build a hotel on her heart”.
We’re just scratching the surface. Ultimately, this is Darwin Deez MK II – his deepest, most personal and innovatively inspiring record to date.