Deaf Wish issue statement of intent, or is that contempt, with debut album on Sub Pop
When bands get signed by a big label it can sometimes end in disaster. They feel that because of this new exposure they have to redefine the wheel, sonically speaking, and deliver something career defining. Sometimes this works other times they release something that alienates their existing fans as it’s such a departure from what made them great in the first place. Luckily Deaf Wish has chosen to carry on with the single mindedness that got them here, to Sub Pop, in the first place and release and album that is chocked full of feedback, slightly nihilistic lyrics, massive drums and surging guitars.
The Whip openings with droney vocals and a repetitive guitar riff. Slowly the song descends into guttural bass and scratchy guitars. In short it shows that they’re not letting this new deal go to their head. Sounding like the Stooges and Sonic Youth The Whip crashes and flails about, until halfway through a reflective clean guitar riff helps add texture, and a moment of calm to an otherwise claustrophobic cacophony of an opener. Newness Again sounds like a re-working of Link Wray’s Rumble with its staccato intro and limited but cramped solo. Title track Pain is classic Stooge rock. The bare minimum of chords have been used as possible. Instead of those weird sleigh bells on I Wanna Be You Dog, a layer of feedback has been added. The last four tracks should be labelled the SY DN Suite, as they are pure Sonic Youth. Even down to the guitar tone and singing style. Penultimate track Dead Air is basically six and a half minute feedback instrumental interspersed with massive drums and driving bass. Closing track Calypso slows things down a bit, but its juddering outro is sublime.
On Pain, Deaf Wish have successfully deconstructed rock music. It sounds like they’ve taken apart each element of a ‘band’ and gone off on their own, reimagined it and when they came to record the album, they each played their parts and that was the song, regardless of if it works with the other elements. Luckily for us it works bloody and well and what we’ve been given is thirty minutes that is abrasive, dissonant, atonal, with undecipherable lyrics it’s strangely warming. The only downside is that Deaf Wish’s influences are too pronounced on some tracks, making them sound like reimagined covers, rather than original compositions. Having said that Pain is a great album and shows that Deaf Wish have no desire to sell out and change their sound now they’re signed to Sub Pop. The only real pain here is firstly waiting for a follow up and wondering where they can go?