Thursday, 21 March 2013

Darwin Deez Review by Dara Yazdani

11th February 2013 || Concorde2 || Review by Dara Yazdani

It's a cold, wintry night outside the Concorde 2. Only the hardiest of hipsters have been brave enough to schlep down here on a Monday to see if Darwin Deez have retained that off-beat charm that made the eponymous debut album a sleeper hit. It is testament to Darwin Smith's pulling power that the show is still a sell-out.

I saw Darwin back in 2010, when his first album was making waves and was curious to see how much quirkiness and joie de vivre he had been retained after three years in the cynical spin cycle of the music industry.

Darwin bounds on stage in good spirits, resplendent in powder blue cashmere every inch the cross between a low budget Hassidic porn star and Wierd Al Yankovic's long lost son. Backed by a new three piece band (only the original bassist remains), they are keen to air their new material.

It's always a risk playing new songs to punters who haven't had the chance to absorb your new music. Darwin's new album Songs For Imaginative People was only released the day of the show and you could tell by the volume of crowd chatter that the new songs were struggling to make an impact. Sadly, the attention span for your average indie kid is only marginally higher than that of a goldfish on Rohypnol.

Nice to see the ironic synchronised dancing is still on the menu (think Spike Jonze video for Fatboy Slim's Praise You). Its a diverting but inconsequential bonus to the music. On reflection, despite all the signs indicating its business as usual, Darwin may be suffering from "second album syndrome" as little of the new material has the immediacy of Bad Day or Radar Detector. These two along with DNA -"It's 3 years old but it's still got it."- get the biggest cheers of the evening.

Perhaps the new tracks will benefit from multiple listens. 'Moonlit' has more than a hint of Prince circa Controversy with its funky licks and 80's synth-soul flourishes. Midway through the song Darwin blasts out an impressive guitar solo that would do the purple funker proud. In fact Darwin's axe skills have come on leaps and bounds as a number of the new tracks feature clever guitar work complete with Santanaesque facial grimaces.

'Alice' shows promise with a big chorus that stays in the memory and first single Free (The Editorial Me) sounds like a Graham Coxon album track with its unconventional song structure and jagged guitar. 'Redshift' is positively anthemic and in danger of straying into Bon Jovi territory.

However just as you expect certain songs to go a certain direction they dive away from convention and leave you wrong footed. You have to applaud his musical ambition but it ensures his performance struggles to gain momentum.

Final track '(800) HUMAN', a meandering ode to the work of Dinosaur Jr, is probably misjudged as a curtain closer. You can feel the crowd want to get involved but Darwin's left turns keep them at arms length. The general public can do kooky but weird is a more of an acquired taste.

Review by Dara Yazdani

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