On The Record: The Band Of The Year (Apparently Isn’t Even A Band Anymore)
I am no good at predicting the future, so writing a speculative column on Monday that isn’t scheduled to run until Wednesday might not be the smartest move. But thanks to, er, Thanksgiving, that’s exactly what I’m doing. And here’s the leap I’m taking: Deerhunter are totally the band of the year.
I’ve been mulling over this idea for a few weeks, since we’re getting to the end of 2007 and as such I’m required by law to begin toiling over things like “Best of” lists and “2007: The Year the Music Industry Died” essays (or, as my brother, who works for a real-estate developer in Orlando, put it: “ The things that don’t matter to anyone but you and people like you“). And really, when I started thinking about it, there wasn’t really anyone else who came to mind (well, aside from Radiohead … perhaps you’ve heard that they decided to release their In Rainbows album all by themselves ).
So it pretty much had to be Deerhunter. To wit:
» From January to June, they release a terrific/terrifying LP (the fabulously creepy, spacey and weird Cryptograms), an even more terrific, slightly less terrifying EP (Fluorescent Grey) and one of the year’s best songs (“After Class,” which will appear on a comp being put out by the Brooklyn recording studio/ label Rare Book Room one of these days). It’s a remarkable body of work, primarily because, over the course of 17 songs, you can actually hear Deerhunter becoming a terrific band; the ambient noise experiments of Cryptograms shift into the dreamy, surrealist rock of Fluourescent and finally “After Class,” which combines both and is without a doubt the best song they’ve ever made (at least so far).
» In July, they embark on a headlining tour/ self-flagellation agenda that features frontman Bradford Cox wearing cocktail dresses, smearing fake blood on his face, simulating sex acts on his bandmates and going off on rambling, unsettling tirades about his childhood, often all at once. Somehow, no one in the band dies during this time.
» That same month, they also start a blog, which becomes sort of infamous when guitarist Lockett Pundt starts posting photographs of his own poop, and really, really infamous when Cox writes an entry called “five imaginary boyfriends (and why they would never work out)” which contains graphic accounts of his fictional sexual encounters, plus pornographic images of — reportedly — underage boys. (The post is later removed, and Cox defends it by writing, “I have not used a single image that did not come from a legitimate site that keeps age records. Child pornography is f—ed up, and as someone who was sexually abused since I was seven, I take it pretty seriously.”) Cox then spends the remainder of July and August posting about his mugging in Atlanta and his feud with LA Weekly’s Jeff Weiss, all while continually updating the site with MP3s and mixtapes he recorded under the moniker of Atlas Sound.
» Somewhere along the way, this all becomes too much for the band’s other guitarist, Colin Mee, who quits the group, only to eventually rejoin them on the eve of a European tour. Cox begins using interviews, live shows and the band’s blog as platforms for discussing Deerhunter’s new album, which he says will be called Microcastle and will feature a “doo-wop, ’50s/ early ’60s, Everly Brothers” vibe, plus a three-song suite in which he will attempt to “kill off the adolescent character that haunts everything I write.”He also talks of releasing an Atlas Sound LP (slated for release in February) and launching a full-scale tour in support of it.
Seriously. Your move, Thom Yorke.
And as if the fact that all of this happened within the first nine months of the year wasn’t reason enough to give the nod to Deerhunter, consider the events of this past Sunday (November 18), when Cox took to the band’s blog once again, this time to acknowledge the fact that Deerhunter would be going on hiatus at year’s end. Seriously. There is no encore. It is not known when — if ever — they will play together again, as Cox writes, “We are all exhausted now and ready to be home. … We all need some time to organize our lives. … Deerhunter is sleeping now.”
And with that, Deerhunter pretty much wrapped up band-of-the -year honors, because I can’t think of another act in history whose entire career arc took place over the course of 12 months, under such bizarrely open circumstances and with so many people watching. They went from “unknown” to “infamous” to “much-missed” quicker than any band ever.
Yes, I am aware that their first album, the demurely titled Turn It Up F—-t, came out in 2005. But from January to November of 2007, no band mattered more to people like me than Deerhunter. They were divisive (primarily because they learned very early on just how to work the hype machine), they were difficult and they were much-discussed. And they knew all this, which is why it was so brilliant (and incredibly fitting) when they announced their hiatus the way they did. It was a supremely meta moment — blog band announces hiatus via blog — one that encapsulated 2007 (and to a larger extent, the entire decade) in a way that In Rainbows didn’t.
Of course, as I said, I’m writing this on Monday … by Wednesday, Cox could’ve updated the band’s blog to say that the announcement was a big joke. It’s also entirely possible that the hiatus won’t be permanent — Deerhunter are scheduled to perform at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England in May, so this all could be starting over again at any point.
But I don’t think that any of those things really matter all that much. Because for several months, no band confounded or amazed like Deerhunter did. They were as brilliant in life as they are “on hiatus,” and as such, they deserve the accolades.
So go enjoy it, fellas. Unless someone does something completely outrageous over the next five weeks, you’re my band of the year. Go celebrate with some furious blogging. Or, you know, by not being a band anymore. And if that sentiment doesn’t sum 2007 up nicely, well, then I don’t know what will.
B-Sides: Other Stories I’m Following This Week50 Cent turns to high-profile beefs — with Britney and the Killers. True story: Patrick Stump refused to remove his backpack for this interview.
Remember that episode of Cribs from a few years back where Scarface took us on a tour of his townhouse while wearing a XXX-L Barry Sanders jersey and no pants? Scarface rules.
Questions? Concerns? Bands of the Year? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.