Deerhunter – Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?
Deerhunter know that enjoyment lies within the journey, and on their eighth studio album, the slow, crumbling decline of civilisation has rarely sounded so good
Deerhunter are a mark of consistency in a turbulent world, having released a string of critically acclaimed albums over the past 15 years. While each has its sonic variations, they've managed to maintain a steady 'Deerhunter' sound along the way, centered around Bradford Cox's cryptic lyrics and melodious arrangements buried amidst avant-garde whims. This largely holds true for their eighth album, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, which manages to shake things up while still remaining within the usual parameters.
The album is framed as a reaction to the present state of the world, but through a cracked prism that refuses to show things exactly as they are. Rather, it takes fragments of cultural and societal decay to tell stories and evoke images that can appear funky (Greenpoint Gothic, Plains), enigmatic (Détournement), ruminative (Tarnung, Futurism), unnerving (Nocturne) and a range of other emotions across its terse 36 minutes.
After an appeal to straightforwardness in the album's opening lines: 'Come on down from that cloud / And cast your fears aside' (a concept partially reprised later on Element) Cox plainly states various mantras and concerns; 'In the country there's great unrest / Violence is taking hold', 'Call it what you want, dear / I call it fear', 'What happens to people? / They quit holding on'. However, much of the lyrical pessimism is undercut by some of the band's jauntiest instrumental choices to date. Whether it's Cate Le Bon's whimsical harpsichord on Death In Midsummer, the beautiful, cascading piano of What Happens to People or the downright danceable synthetic bassline on Plains, there's no shortage of inventive quirks.
This isn't an exercise in revisionism – ecological damage, the rise of right-wing extremism and toxic nostalgia are just some of the album's concerns – but Cox is also seemingly wary of drifting into the irreducible despair that can only lead to nihilism. Instead, this album seeks to ask questions, to entertain and to create. While the destination may be nebulous, Deerhunter know that the enjoyment lies within the journey. The slow, crumbling decline of civilisation has rarely sounded so good.
Listen to: Death in Midsummer, No One's Sleeping, What Happens to People