Live: Deerhunter Close Down The Genius Bar At The Soho Apple Store
Better than: An intro course to GarageBand or whatever the hell ordinarily goes on in here.
These Apple in-stores are super-weird. The tech-seminar vibe, the folks politely seated close enough to get popped in the face by an errant windmill chord, the PowerPoint-ish image of whatever band's latest album cover projected behind them, the crowd-wide sea of iPhone screens charting how much attention we're all paying in real time, the 800 or so Apple employees rocking out extra conspicuously (headbanging, Rock Faces, etc.) at the room's perimeter. Plus they seem to go out of their way to pick loud, gnarly, amp-rattling guitar bands -- Sonic Youth, say, and now Deerhunter, who inspire said 800 Apple employees to toss packages of earplugs into the crowd before the fun begins. Ain't no app for tinnitus, after all.
Except Deerhunter are slightly calmer, quieter, sweeter, and more pastoral than perhaps you remember -- the band's new Halcyon Digest opts for relative serenity, the guitars still intricate and obsessively layered but more delicate now, vacillating between a distinctly Strokes-like bounce and blurrier soft-rock balladry. As usual with these guys, it's seemingly designed to all smear together into one pretty, amorphous mass. Most of the quick 45-minute set hails from Halcyon, from the slow, luscious haze of "Helicopter" to the low-power pop "Desire Lines," sung by singer/guitarist Lockett Pundt, who handles himself fine but lacks frontman/focal point Bradford Cox's gawky anti-star power.
As for that, I was hoping that the bizarre setting would once again inspire some wacky banter (Kim Gordon: "It's so quiet. One would think it's a temple to technology."), but the boys demure, and generally crank up the intensity only for the final tune, Halcyon closer "He Would Have Laughed," an alleged Jay Reatard tribute bolstered by Cox's constant barrage of guitar and wordless-vocal loops, multiplying his melodrama as he moans "I get bored as I get older/Can you help me figure this out?" before allowing his self-made ghost-choir to overpower him, a spider-fingered guitar figure looped and repeating endlessly, the lyrics getting steadily more cryptic ("I won't rest till I can't breathe/I can't breathe with you lookin' at me") until he's meekly howling "I don't need nobody on my farm/Where'd your friends go?" like James Murphy drunk on '90s indie guitar-rock instead of disco. Way fewer people fiddling with their iPhones for that one.
Critical Bias: No "Nothing Ever Happened," no credibility.
Overheard: Apple employee to other Apple employee: "Easiest 14 bucks I ever made."
Random Notebook Dump: Conspicuous Badass Rock Critic contingent in the front row.