Album review: Darwin Deez “Double Down”

It has now been six years since New York band Darwin Deez bounded into the alternative music scene with their self-titled debut album. Best known for their first single ‘Radar Detector’, its up-beat and quirky sound has become synonymous of their music catalogue overall.

However, this is the problem with latest album Double Down – it sounds almost exactly the same as their first… and second album. While it is somewhat admirable to hold on to their unique, up-beat sound it is also slightly tiring to hear songs that have little variation. It feels like they are going after the safe option and sticking to what they know works. While there is no denying that Darwin Deez can write irresistibly catchy songs, a large majority of the songs on Double Down feel like attempts at attaining the same degree of catchiness that has worked so well for them in the past. The result is an album filled with songs that are difficult to differentiate from one to the other.

Yet, this isn’t to dismiss the album without merit. Darwin Deez have released two singles from Double Down, the first being ‘Kill Your Attitude’. It is easy to see why this song in particular was chosen to be released as a single – it retains that ever-beloved element of whimsical guitar riffs while also building another substantial layer of musical exploration that most of the album feels bereft of. Overall, it feels like a much more confident song because it isn’t so reliant upon the energetic sound that brought them attention as a band in the first place. With an impressive guitar solo incorporated and more vocal range than the majority of the album, ‘Kill Your Attitude’ is the most ambitious offering within.

This isn’t the limit of musical experimentation however. ‘Rated R’ has a lo-fi, heavy sound that contrasts sharply with the sound we have come to expect from the band. Having front man Darwin Smith’s voice against a grungy guitar and drums combo is what makes this ‘Rated R’ stick out so much. His voice and the obligatory guitar riff have become part and parcel for Darwin Deez’s fan base. With lyrics “We can slip into the theatre showing Fight Club, who cares about nightmares anyway?” and “You can kiss me on the mouth, I like the way that feels,” this song is a nostalgic reflection on the awkward transition from being a child into being an adolescent, having a crush on someone. These lyrics combined with the unconventionally heavy sound serves to encapsulate a rebellious, experimental sense to the song that pairs with the subject matter in a pretty clever way.

Penultimate song ‘Right When It Rains’ manages to catch the Darwin Deez speciality – irresistibly chirpy and infectious, positive vibes. It’s these moments that make Darwin Deez’s music so impressive and almost makes you want to excuse the handful of other songs that somehow just feel like rip-offs of this sound. With simplistic lyrics that include “Let’s go dance in the storm, if lightning strikes I’m ready for it” it is the kind of song that has the capability to lift your mood right away and bring even a tiny grin to your face.

‘Right When It Rains’ beside ‘Kill Your Attitude’ really hits the nail on the head for Double Down and ensures that the band undoubtedly has the potential to get that balance of retaining their unique sound whilst exploring other sonic avenues at the same time. Fingers crossed for album number four.

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