It seems like a different era when we first met Darwin Deez, back in 2009. His live shows were moments of pure joy, where this bundle of kinetic energy, with a moptop of corkscrew curls, would perform synchronised dance moves and dash off sweet love songs like Radar Detector or Bad Day, sounding for all the world like The Strokes‘ mischievous younger brother.
That was nearly a decade ago though, and Deez’s star seems to have stalled somewhat since those heady early days. Two albums have been released since that debut and neither Songs For Imaginative People nor Double Down troubled the charts very much. Now onto his fourth album, the moptop of curls may have been chopped off, but musically it’s like it’s still 2009 in Deez’s world.
10 Songs That Happened When You Left Me With My Stupid Heart is, as the title may suggest, an album about lost love and disintegrating relationships. You’d hesitate to call it a break-up album as, musically at least, Deez is as peppy as ever, but there’s certainly evidence of a broken heart lurking behind many of these songs.
Musically, it sticks to what’s been established as the Darwin Deez template. Opening track The World’s Best Kisser has an inventive intro – all a cappella, with Deez’s voice pitch-shifted thanks to a harmonizer, before the band kick in. It’s a decent opener, and a suitable primer for the album as few surprises lie in store.
As with Deez’s previous three albums, 10 Songs… is full of wonky pop songs with a bit of a twist to them. Say It First is a big, lolloping swagger of a song with a squelchy synth line, with Deez’s self-loathing turned up to the maximum as he begs his other half to say those three little words: “don’t just say it back to me… act as if you’re attracted to me”. That theme continues in Too Shy To Take A Shine, which has a oddly jazzy air to it, with Deez beating up on himself as he lacks the nerve to make a move on his intended.
Maybe it’s the heartache documented in these songs, but there’s an oddly listless quality to some of the album. All My Friends is an anonymous mid-paced ballad which just tends to float in and float off again, while Drive Around is Deez on auto-pilot – it sounds like an offcut from his debut, and the sort of thing he can probably pull off in his sleep these days.
However, some of the charm of those early songs is replicated: Getaway is naggingly catchy and enlivened by some fiery guitar solos, and Someone New is a crunchy number featuring all manner of vocal acrobatics from Deez and a heroic attempt to create as many rhymes with “glistening” as possible.
Even when Deez is revisiting past glories, as he could be accused of doing on this record, there’s still an easy charm about his songs. By now, you probably know exactly what to expect from a Darwin Deez album, and this delivers that in spades.