Show Spotlight: DIIV @ Black Cat, 10/27/19
Today, Ben Kirst talks up the virtues of going to see DIIV at the Black Cat this weekend.
It’s taken me awhile to write the preview for DIIV’s upcoming Washington, DC show (Sunday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 PM) at the venerable Black Cat (1811 14th St. NW).
Why? Frankly, it’s because the narrative around DIIV for the past few years has been kind of a downer. Zachary Cole Smith — the band’s driving force and one of the true indie shredlords of the 2010s, the lovechild of Mascis and Marr — has struggled with drug addiction, recovery, and relapse.
There has been all of the classic, sad fallout: an arrest, a breakup, the false hope of a clean future, the inevitable backslide. None of which is meant to judge Smith, a brilliant musical talent whose personal issues add poignancy to the beauty of DIIV's 2012 full-length debut Oshin, 2016’s dreamy Is the Is Are, and the powerful new record, Deceiver.
Instead of lingering too long with the bleaker stuff, let’s discuss the music. Deceiver, produced by Sonny Diperri (whose work with My Bloody Valentine and Nine Inch Nails seem like the perfect antecedent for studio time with Smith, guitarist Andrew Bailey, bassist Colin Caufield, and drummer Ben Newman), was released on Oct. 4 by excellent Brooklyn indie label Captured Tracks.
The album veers between emotional states, sometimes melancholy, other times light; you hear some hope, like the bouncy bass and driving beat of “The Spark,” and then you listen to “Like Before You Were Born,” with its vaguely suicidal lyrics and an overdriven outro that sounds like a trapped wild animal or, well, My Bloody Valentine, and you almost cringe.
That may well be the point.
“We’re really proud of the record. All the things we had talked about wanting to do, in my opinion I feel like we did,” Caufield told Robin Murray of Clash earlier this month. “A lot of what we wanted to convey is pretty plain without even having to explain it, which is something which we’ve never been able to do. There would always have to be some kind of context to what we happening. But I feel like it’s pretty understandable.”
The experience of listening to Deceiver is like walking through a graveyard on a bright, sunny day. If you're comfortable with that, it’s a fascinating document in the life of a young man publicly struggling to get well. The fact that it sounds, in many ways, like the great lost rock record of the late 1980s, the amalgam of The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Jane’s Addiction in one 45-minute shot, makes it magical.
The hints of metal are allegedly the result of a heavy influence by friends and fellow travelers Deafheaven, who toured with DIIV while the band was putting Deceiver together — “Blankenship," for example, is almost like Sup Pop-era Soundgarden.
This has to sound great live. The Black Cat show is worth your time, people.
Lukas Frank’s buzzy underground project Storefront Church and DIIV labelmates Chastity will open. Tickets are $17.