The carefree electro-pop of ‘Radar Detector‘ was deified into the cavernous halls of indie disco Valhalla, shelved between iconic anthems like ‘Last Nite‘ or ‘Fluorescent Adolescent‘. It may not exactly deserve that legendary status – but given the amount that Darwin Deez (the curly-coiffed singer) and Darwin Deez (the band) were shoved down our throats back in 2010, it’s not surprising it got there. ‘Constellations’ and that other song from the album that no one remembers failed to reach that zenith, and it would seem that Darwin Deez were destined to be labelled with those three career-mourning words: one hit wonders.
But then rumblings emerged from the Deez camp about a second record. Songs For Imaginative People was to follow-up the relative success of the eponymous debut (it charted at #61). ‘Free (The Editorial Me)’, with all its bumblebee-swarm grandeur eventually swanned into our ears, home to a huge noisy chorus fringing on hard-rock. It’s a bit grungey, and it comes off like someone put a ’90s alt. rock anthem in a feedback loop/a washing machine. There are parts that gel, and others that are just plain strange: flippant tone shifts, gritty electronica jarring with the twinkling guitars and Deez’s hearty warbling. It fast became apparent that this wasn’t going to be a collection of indie-pop gems from NYC like its predecessor.
‘(800) HUMAN’ asks “Are you sick of not existing?”, like some kind of existentialist preacher, or Tyler Durden. Solid, warped guitar chords chunkily set a pace hand-in-hand with blippy glitches; tinny drum machines barely keep a rhythm. Deez’s continues his sermon, apparently unaware of the mayhem behind him, hooks few and far between. ‘You Can’t Be My Girl’ rekindles some of that past fervour we saw in Darwin Deez three years ago. His slur divulges a tale of drugs, sex and the pitfalls of love amidst that sunny web of infectious guitar we came to know and love – there is a tacked on electro solo, but the less said about that the better.
‘Good To Lose’ opens like Foals covering ‘Suck My Kiss‘, adding bitter quirk like “I’ve got a hot date with a lawn gnome”, “I’m free to be asleep until three”, and “I need to rewind you back to the beginning”. It’s another example of when the band get things right: the experimentation is there in off-kilter beats, but hooks are plentiful. It’s not as alienating. ‘Chelsea’s Hotel’ burns slow, accompanied by frantic bluesy soloing, a tragic ode to one-sided affection. “Have you ever seen a wrecking ball as small as her?” asks Deez. It’s a touching end, and a high note on the album.
It’s not that Songs For Imaginative People is bad, because it’s not. There are brilliantly crafted moments of pure pop pleasure, as on ‘Free’ or ‘You Can’t Be My Girl’, but these moments are outweighed by a flagrant battle of straight-up indie-pop/rock and peculiar avante-garde electronic elements. There are mathy pace turns that just don’t sit right – just as ‘Alice’ gets going, it’s thrown all over the place by turbulent rhythmic shifts, and the piano-led ‘Redshift’ wobbles and clicks like a mutant dubstep ballad. It’s almost like the band are making a concerted effort to distance themselves from the accessible melodies of before in an effort to prove they’re not one trick ponies, when they should just run with what clearly comes pretty naturally.