The music gravity

A colleague of mine who has a very deep and intricate relationship with Deerhoof, upon hearing The Runners Four, posted the following on a message board with an endearing breathlessness: "They did it. They fucking did it. Tears in my eyes."

Some bands you just like, plain and simple. Others, you struggle with - the music exerts a gravity that pulls you in, only to bounce you off of its impenetrable surface. It's like kissing someone who's simultaneously pushing you away. This is the sort of record I find most rewarding over the long run, with various bands of resistance in which I become hopelessly entangled; music that isn't content just to be what it is, but seems to exist more as a sort of potential, a dark adumbration of raptures to come. Sometimes, either the listener, the music, or both never make it beyond the struggle; they slog through the mire and sink from view before reaching the sandbar.

The relationship my colleague has with Deerhoof is similar to mine with The Liars. The cowbelled funk-punk of They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top was loads of fun, but barely hinted toward the grinding, doomy textures of They Were Wrong So We Drowned, an impenetrable document at once deeply flawed and endlessly fascinating, haunted and incantatory and repulsive. The music wasn't content to simply inhabit the space it carved out for itself. It defined the boundaries of the space and immediately set about pounding on the door. If it was hard to like, it was harder to disregard, an attenuated vector of transcendence slamming the body of an eleven-foot-tall caveman in a gold lame loincloth against the not-quite-buckling door.

The forthcoming Drum's Not Dead LP doesn't just open that door, it absolutely pulverizes it, shearing the hinges, and beyond it - unbounded space, purling white mist and refractions of light. "They did it," I thought, "They fucking did it," posting on that very same message board a rapturous and probably ill-advised (but deeply felt) comment about the air Drum's Not Dead inhabits becoming "radiant with divinity." Where the last album slogged around in a viscous murk, this one is all light and air, suspended in some profane equilibrium, crystalline, primordial, and terrifying in the beautiful way that a forest fire or tornado is. Some of you are going to hate it; others will glimpse the godhead.

The Excepter track's just a little bonus spooky for you; in my view they're still pounding on their own private door, which creaked open incrementally during certain protracted moments on Throne, but remains for the most part an intriguing impediment. But the tooth-grinding struggle must always precede the wide-eyed epiphany, and I'm going to continue wandering the wilderness with Excepter, confident that eventually, like the Liars, they'll find their way out and go up to the mountain. I'm a pragmatist in many things, but with music, I'm something of a mystic, and while I have to pursue a pragmatic approach as a critic, I cling to my mysticism as a listener - it's about as close as I come to prayer.