American quartet Deerhunter return to deliver, surprisingly, their seventh slice of ambient indie to the masses. Somehow it's been an entire decade since the release of their scrappy debut 'Turn It Up Faggot' and props to the group for raging on so long. It is clear that with time their sound has become more nuanced and refined but the question is in doing so has it also lost some of its bite? On the evidence of 'Fading Frontier' it unfortunately appears so.
Kicking off with 'All The Same' things feel so-far-so indie. Jangling guitar lines, loud/quiet attack and simple lyrics, ironically proclaiming (like the title) 'It's all the same', rule proceedings. On the strength of the rest of the album it's an odd choice of opener and the weakest number.
'Living My Life' instantly ups the grade with some lush production and ear grabbing electronics and key stabs. Faith restored. Following 'Breaker' follows suit with some flanged out guitar and visual inducing word play to help break the mold. The brilliant titled 'Duplex Planet' includes some cheeky harpsichord, a far too underused instrument in the world of rock n' roll as far as we're considered.
At roughly the halfway point however things get a shake up with the stoned lull of 'Leather on Wood'. It's wobbly, psychedelic, and even creepy. Brandon Cox's vocals are tweaked, pulled and muffled into that of something from a Lynchian world. It's fantastic...though not as fantastic as album highlight 'Snakeskin', a twitchy funk number and one the best songs Deerhunter have ever committed to tape. The lyrics, dare we say, remind one of 'Blonde on Blonde' or 'Highway 61...' era Dylan while the percussion is straight from the funking 70s. More of this please, lads.
'Ad Astra' continues peaking interests with some very Gary Numan synths and an overall immersive ambience. It's a song to take a swim in. 'Carrion' provides a sweet and airy finale, showcasing firstly how the band helped create the modern American indie sound and, secondly that they're masters of producing such numbers.
'Fading Frontier' is by no means a poor album, and truth be told really doesn't possess a bad number on it. The real issue is that in a genre filled with imitators, many whom Deerhunter no doubt inspired, we need a bit more bang for our buck. When the oddities on this album ride so high they should have let complete weirdness take over.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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