26 Jun 2015

DIIV / Oshin (album review)



American dream-pop band DIIV are reissuing their debut record Oshin, so I thought I'd take another look at the record that seems to have made them such a cult sensation among teenagers. It came out originally in 2012, and with their second record on it's way, the band are giving a chance to buy a new vinyl copy of Oshin (with alternative artwork because of a copyright issue).

Oshin relies quite heavily imagery wise on the astrological sign of the water, but you wouldn't really know that if you hadn't been told that in the tracklisting because vocals are so deep in the mix. Or maybe you would be able to work it out, because the guitars are very emotive, and do genuinely carry a lot of the weight of the meaning. Anyway, I think the fact that the guitars definitely do the most of the talking, and that's the best way to summarise this record.

Oshin starts of with a 2 minute instrumental that echoes of Joy Division's Disorder, but via DIIV's own distinctive knackered-converse & over-sized t-shirt shoegaze feel. The melody to this track is a total dream, and it completely pulls you straight into DIIV's own little world.

Track 2 is Past Lives, which is one of the albums bona-fide bangers; a descending riff of forlorn, surfy guitar races through yr eardrums and Zachary Cole Smith's vocals reside under the guitars, echoing about some past love or whatever. Human, like Earthboy and Sometime later on the album, are the kind of fillers that you'd definitely skip if you got presented with them on shuffle, but as part of the album help to keep you subsumed in the album's own mystical feel.

Air Conditioning is a bit of a classic (but 10000x improved live, google it), with it's wafting sunny feel, and it's still really hypnotic, and it's otherworldly guitar melody towards the end really makes it a really euphoric moment. It, like every song on this record, has it's own feel, and DIIV manage to create their own world with it - although, if this kinda kraut-pop shoegazing isn't your cup of tea, it could be misinterpreted as repetitive - but then again, if rap isn't yr thing To Pimp A Butterfly could be read the same way, and the same thing with Swans' To Be Kind, if that's not your cup of tea. And let's be honest, no one can deny that these are fantastic records.

As you get onto the second side, you find DIIV's sound gets even more honed, and even though it remains safely within the confines of that aquatic dream-pop, the songs get better as you get towards the tail end of this album. Sometime and Follow are really nice, forlorn numbers, and (Druun Pt II), which kicks the side off, has a really krautrock feel to it, because, well, the music sounds like it's really moving, in the same way that NEU! and Can's records (and John Coltrane's too).

It's the duo of Oshin (Subsume) and Doused, though, that are the cherry on top of the cake for DIIV. The title track is a visceral, building rock song, that sets DIIV's grimiest sound with chants of 'fuck the world, alien love', and whilst it's probably the second best song on the album, it can't prepare you for the ABSOLUTE BANGER that has closed all their sets for the past 3 years. Doused is an explosive 223 seconds that revolves around a frantic, descending guitar line, and some almost-barked vocals, really deep in the mix (whilst Doused is the highlight of the LP, on their new album Is the is are, DIIV are likely to feature a song called Doused Pt. II). Closing the album concisely after that is Home, which is a very forgettable wishy-washy 2 minute lullaby, and it does kinda work, but it would have been a more effective LP if it closed on Doused, I think.

Although DIIV have, probably quite rightly been covered in controversy because of the whole 4chan thing, (and because of various other things that have been going on for the band - i.e. drug arrests, etc),  if you let the music speak for itself, and distance the art from the artist, this is a fantastic, fantastic album. DIIV are a far stretch from the 'voice of the generation' figure that Cole Smith wants them to be, but they're almost culty enough among younger audiences to really get somewhere. And because despite the bassist clearly being a bigoted cyber-troll, Cole Smith is a otherwise a genuinely moral guy, who no doubt has a lot of good stuff to say. Sure, he needs to kick the bassist out, sure, he should probably do something about his drug problem, sure, he needs to get a grip, because DIIV aren't the biggest thing in the world ever, but ON IT'S OWN, as an album, Oshin is a really accomplished debut, and it's something that deserves a reissue.

9.1/10

DIIV are reissuing this album - for those that need LP, CD and cassette copies of it - and you can get yr hands on it here. It's out September 4th. It has the same tracklisting as the 2012 issue, but only has different cover art - if you want an original copy, prices are now pushing on £30/£40 on eBay and it's difficult to find, so try snaffle yrself a reissue copy.

(WRITTEN BY CALUM CASHIN)