DEERHUNTER : Turn It Up, Faggot (Stickfigure, 2005)

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Monomania, the latest album from Atlanta's Deerhunter, was released last week &, despite lingering concerns that they surely couldn't notch up a 4th knock-out LP in a row, it transpires that it's another marvellous effort - & just as good as 2010's benchmark Halycon Digest, in fact.

Labelling itself "nocturnal garage" (cf. "File under: Water", I suppose), Monomania is an oblique, twilit collision of the band's defiled fog of basement-taped distortion (it does sound uncannily like a demo in places) with lyricist Bradford Cox's semi-Burroughsian aggregations of troubled surreality - strung-out, lovesick verses spat though warped mirrors of phantasmal loneliness, crumpled Polaroid memories &, always, a raw & undefinable longing. A lost boy in a mystery vortex. Saudade.

Despite sharing a similar busted cassette fidelity, Monomania has surprisingly little in common with Turn It Up, Faggot, their visceral, erratic debut. For one thing, Cox & his cohorts have developed into much better songwriters in the intervening 8 years (agruably, some of the tracks on T.I.U.F. barely qualify as "songs" anyway). Though primarily eponymous, "turn it up, faggot" is printed in large letters down the sleeve's spine &, by default, has become the record's title. The phrase derives, incidentally/inevitably, from a heckle that was frequently hurled at the band during their early live shows (Cox has previously identified himself as "gay", but currently leads an asexual lifestyle).

T.I.U.F. was released in June 2005 on Atlanta's long-running emo/math label, Stickfigure Records. It was recorded over 2 days the previous July at Helium Studios, in Athens GA. Though Cox has distanced himself from the LP in recent years ("I hate that album, I really do. Liked it when we did it, but we were a young band - just really desperate to put something out - & I don't think we were ready"), ensuring that it's the only Deerhunter album that is not currently in print, it's certainly not the adolescent disaster area he's summarily dismissed it as (imagine: MBV-informed hardcore) & it's worthy of a cursory listen, at the very least.

n.b. Deerhunter were unceasingly prolific during this formative era, & an entire unreleased album from the same year as Turn It Up, Faggot - Carve Your Initials Into the Wall of the Night - has been posted online by the band themselves.


DARLIN' : Shimmies Pour Le Disco (Pre-D.A.F.T. demos, 1993-95)

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I'm as surprised as you are - more so, probably - that the announcement of an imminent new Daft Punk album (their first since 2005's underwhelming Human After All) should inspire a resumption of activity on I Love Total Destruction after such a protracted lay-off. Stranger things have transpired on-line, no doubt, but really...

While the somewhat daunting previews of their forthcoming Random Access Memories LP suggest that it's likely to be a polarising, & gloriously overreaching, '70s-derived meringue of ostentatious easy listening frommage & magisterial Moroder-indebted synth throb (encompassing, unbelievably, The Muppet Show), the surrounding brouhaha did at least remind me to dig out Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo's handful of pre-Homework noodlings with the short-lived & under-appreciated (not least by the ex-band members themselves) Darlin'.

Formed in Paris in 1992, Darlin' were a Beach Boys-inspired, guitar-wielding trio featuring Bangalter on bass, Homem-Christo on guitar, & "mystery" third member Laurent Brancowitz on drums. Brancowitz departed to form the riff-friendly Phoenix (whose own new LP has just entered the Billboard Top 200 at #4) when his disillusioned band mates began distractedly experimenting with samplers & loops. Without question, their most widely heard release is their 2-song contribution to Duophonic's Shimmies In Super-8 sampler from 1993, a limited edition double 7" package that also featured Huggy Bear, the long-forgotten Colm, & label impresarios Stereolab themselves. Legendarily, a Melody Maker review of Shimmies... dismissed Darlin's side as "a daft, punky thrash", thereby birthing a monster that would grow, eventually, to exert a profound musical influence over the entire, awestruck planet. Stereolab's track aside, none of the music on Shimmies... has ever been reissued, & an original copy will set you back £70+ nowadays.

Thomas Bangalter: "When we were about 17 or 18, we made this tape which was a cover of a Beach Boys song. We just recorded it at home with guitars & a drum machine. No melody, just the chords. The band Stereolab were coming to Paris & we really liked them because they had these incredibly cool 7" singles, so we gave the tape to a girlfriend who then passed it on to Laetitia (Sadier) from the band. Stereolab put it on a compilation single they made..."

Less well known, however, are the 2 untitled songs that crept out (posthumously, perhaps?) in 1995 on Banana Split's De La Viande Pour Le Disco? cassette compilation, which placed them alongside well-established denizens of the early '90s D.I.Y. tape underground such as Silver Jews, God Is My Co-Pilot, Cornershop, Paste, John Davis, Scaredy Cat, & I'm Being Good (&, oddly, Seefeel). Though one of Darlin's contributions hereon retread the fuzzy lo-fi template of their earlier Duophonic appearance, the other is (rather bravely, on reflection) an embryonic house track that appears to sample Bowie's "Starman" - citation required, naturally. Dismayed &/or perplexed (probably both), Banana Split's curator positioned the latter out of harm's way at the very end of side 1 so that the music ended prematurely as the tape ran out. If he/she has hung onto the original tape or CDR it was sourced from, I expect it'd be worth a fortune now. There's a copy of De La Viande Pour Le Disco? for sale on Discogs as I type - a steal at £1,640! Mon Dieu, et al.

Thomas Bangalter: "The rock'n'roll thing we did was pretty average, I think. It was so brief, maybe 6 months, 4 songs & 2 gigs, & that was it".

● LycĂ©e Carnot