No one said it would be easy: battling addiction, a hate-speech fiasco featuring a former bassist and an album that nearly broke the band financially, DIIV has faced its share of challenges. The band’s excellent debut, Oshin (2012), marked them as ascendants on the indie rock stage, possible inheritors of the Joy Division Post-Punk mantle. But somewhere between the Oshin support tour and the release Is the Is Are (2016), the wheels came off. Lead singer Zachary Cole Smith, already once removed from an unsuccessful rehab stint, checked himself back into an intensive in-patient program, vowing to ‘buy-in’ and come out the other side.
Deceiver, the band’s third studio album, looks to make good on that promise.
One of the lead singles from Deceiver is “Skin Game,” an angry, yet measured, look at the overwhelming forces that can face addicts daily. The band nods to prescient feelings with lines like, “Strung out to please the king/In Metropolitan’s Sackler Wing.” It stands as both a shot at the biopharma giants who relentlessly pushed OxyContin on the public and at the occasional soullessness of the Upper Crust world, only too happy to let money grease the palms of social consciousness.
“Taker” finds the subject matter trained on the bystanders whose lives are equally impacted by addiction. The guitars grind on huge, fuzzy chords, with wailing interludes as Smith’s vocals question the shattered reflection of a jagged existence.
Deceiver carries intensity and touch. Ben Newman’s drum work stands out across the record. The staccato snare, coupled with consistent sharpness on the high hat and ride cymbal, create pointed interjections across the tracks. Andrew Bailey’s lead guitar is as angular as ever, ripping through muscular riffs of dissonance and grunge. Colin Caulfield’s bass steals the spotlight on tracks like “The Spark,” driving the instrumentals forward like an engine revving at a stoplight just before it explodes off the line.
DIIV feels as clean as ever. The band worked with Sonny Diperri, whose production credits include Nine Inch Nails and My Bloody Valentine, and the touch is evident. Tracks like “Blankenship” and “For the Guilty” seethe with a wild energy that Diperri manages to harness, allowing the climactic moments to create a necessary tension with the more subdued stretches.DIIV is not the first band to try snatch the power of recovery. Some are able to capture the nuances and of the devastation wrought personally and on loved ones, and some just miss. Deceiver has something to say. DIIV has risen above the noise with clarity, while still embracing its critical raucousness.