Deaf Wish Pain

[Sub Pop; 2015]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: noise rock, garage rock, punk rock
Others: Thee Oh Sees, Iceage, Fucked Up, Total Control, Tyvek, Times New Viking, Vaz, Unwound

I can’t help but swoon when Google shows me a classic/hokey SPIN headline “Deaf Wish Pray For ‘Pain’ on New Full-Length” and turn yet again to rock music’s reassuring, thrumming, grubby embrace. Bands like Deaf Wish are why the dead horse that is rock sings out and kicks you back, inflicting that sweet irreparable brain damage you depend on to hold off the romance-with-absurdity backlash. Pratt, Twomey, Hardiman, and Tjhung are (not a law firm) bringing the pain of both work and mad dashing, keen curatorial sense and signature moves, emoting and evading. Last year’s St. Vincent’s made some big promises, showcasing denser production value and a sharp refinement of eight years of already staggering songcraft. But simply put: Pain is a bigger, better Deaf Wish. A good place to be for fans and newbs alike.

Deaf Wish’s exceptional quality could easily come from their lead vocal-sharing approach, in that they each have a singing style that’s decidedly their own. Like a good Beatles or Fleetwood Mac album, you know you’re gonna get an enticingly varied listen. Deaf Wish may not deviate from the punk/garage dissonance formula, but their shared vocal zeal (and lyrics often redolent of a first-thought-best-thought directness) is always surprisingly and charmingly idiosyncratic. The title comes off like one of those universality-courting gestures that can often portend a compromised version of a winning formula. Sometimes it’s impossible to imagine another one-word, ubiquitous signifier of an album title coming along in such a crowded field. But they always do, and in this case, it at least corresponds to a badass show-stealer of a song that sounds as though it should’ve always existed under punk’s greasy fingernails. The track hits home the endearing message of this band: it’s the love, which is good and bad. Rock’s always had one ear to the ground and one up its own ass, and Deaf Wish are among the aptest of pupils of this moldy paradigm. Their pain is singular, their pain is temporary, their pain is just like yours, simultaneously extraneous and the only way we ever truly learn. It is the part of the creative process that’s like breaking rocks and the part that vomits out of you. The damnable persistence of backbeat’s slack-ass appeal. The yawning indictments of screaming indictments of apathetic orientation.

Hell knows it’s not the first time Sonic Youth or MBV have come through a band’s music, but despite uncannily resembling both (back to back, no less), “Sex Witch” and “On” in a short time replace that recognition with immediate attachment. The latter, especially, takes what could be a “Nothing Much To Lose” ripoff and turns it into a blurry, wordless chorus-led spiritual relative to the song. It’s a charming tune and gone too quickly, as is their wont. Until you get to the end of the album, that is. Deaf Wish stretching does not snap, but distends and twists itself in brutish fascination, even then they keep it tight, not venturing too far past the five-minute mark. Closer, “Calypso” is a triumphant slouch into buzzing, wistful disaffection. It’s a perfectly pitched lean into a well-earned exhaustion.

Most of us are quite pleased, but it’s nice to come across some same ‘ol song and dance that’s so insistently hungry and confident in its synthesis. Deaf Wish is the sort of band one thinks of when you talk music and someone goes on about the death of this or that. The dead horse leg has fallen from the jaws of the zombie coyote and it still kicked you in your heavy head — THUD. You’re in the wind, with your fuckin’ eyes closed. Feel the burn and live it in. The freedom to stop existing for sounds that you haven’t yet bothered to articulate (and maybe never will) awaits. Nothing’s dead till you are. Pain has the audacity to come correct, while so many 90s miners are content to approximate. They place themselves in the pantheon and let the gatekeepers of dubious to imperious distinction do what they will. But for those of us who remain hopelessly in love with big, poppy, surly guitar noise, take note and take heart. Pain is here for you.

Links: Deaf Wish - Sub Pop

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