Deerhunter and Clockcleaner: Nasty As They Wanna Be

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Deerhunter and Clockcleaner, provided the soundtrack for yet another fine evening spent at the Satellite Ballroom in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 9, 2007. Both acts demonstrated their particularly raw deliveries of visceral music. Deerhunter has become an indie-media sweetheart of late and it was refreshing to find that they are actually very talented and engaging, as well as weird, sweet, and humble. Clockcleaner, I was told, are renowned for their crappy attitude. I was told they were the "most hated band in Philly". A funny juxtaposition in theory, but in reality a nice pairing. By the end of the night the bands were planning a fake feud backstage and traded t-shirts only to have them altered to say "Queerhunter" and "Cockcleaner".

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live rock and roll

Clockcleaner, whos next record is slated for release this fall on Load Records, played in a completely dark room, lit only by the frenzied flashes of two stereo strobe lights. They had a mockingly confrontational attitude, and they seemed to me to be more amused than antagonistic. Their singer whined loudly into the microphone as their set was kicking off that "he was the f-ing lead singer" and "deserved attention the f-ing attention that i deserve" over a wall of feedback. Their sound is very stripped down, a classic power trio configuration; loud amps, basic drumkit, and singing guitarist. Nothing is over complicated. It's rather simple, heavy and brutal. The bass dirge set forth by the lovely Karen Horner, was massive and enveloping. The sound was ominous, brooding, menacing, and completely loud-as-shit. Their mood struck me as almost goth, like early Bauhaus. At times the music summoned images in my mind of honky tonk blasting from a boombox with ripped speakers and dying batteries. By the end of the show, Clockcleaner was covering an upbeat Breeders song, making it sound demonic as hell and vocalist John starts playing T-Ball with his guitar and plastic water bottles and debris on stage. The end result is a trash can flying off stage, spilling its contents on the floor. It was a curious act, for someone who had been hassling the teenagers in the front row for their braces. Apparently adolescence is more of a frame of mind than a number. Don't get me wrong, I ain't hatin'...I really enjoyed their show and I bet their debut record on Load will be heavy as shit. Due to the fact that their set was all new material they asked that we not post the live set. Check out their record out on Load this fall.

Deerhunter followed with less abrasion, a little less volume, and more texture and variety of sound. They played to a similarly dark room, minus the frenetic madness

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of the strobe. Their sound was simultaneously pristine and raw. They are self proclaimed "ambient punk". Lush textures were built upon solid bass grooves and tactful drumming. Heavily effected vocals soared above the abundant textures, well crafted poetry which can seldom be deciphered yet has real potency when transcribed. There was plenty of edge in their delivery. It certainly wasn't a soft and cuddly experience. At times it was dark, demented, and drugged-out and other times sent chills through ones body with its sublime waves of tone and sonic beauty. There was a lot of flux. This was no case of effects pedals being used as a crutch, and all clarity being lost.

Deerhunter has a true frontman. Bradford Cox is a curious figure, and a great focal point for a live performance. Known for performing in sundresses and other wild get-ups, this show had him donning a long wig and some sort of dress. He is emblematic of embracing your inner freak and being proud of who and what you are. As an outspoken spokesman for gay pride, Bradford is dynamic and bold. He particularly, and the band in general seems, unphased by all the smoke being blow up their asses by indie-media outlets. They seems completely themselves,

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completely amused by "fame", and willing to be as odd-ball as they feel fit. Take the Deerhunter blog for instance, which it seemed to me, that someone else was encouraging them to create. The first few entries include plans to document their guitarist's feces on tour with a photo each day with a description of his diet and intake of alcohol and cigarettes, which later came to fruition with disgusting results. Another entry was titled "five imaginary boyfriends (and why they would never work out)" complete with soft gay-porn images of these "five boyfriends" and lurid gay sex fantasies. This was removed after a retarded backlash on blogs and forums etc. Nowadays the blog is pretty straight up. It is updated with new (and new-old) material often...old show fliers, new mp3 demos, old mp3s from past bands, rants and links to other cool shit. It definitely feels like a communique from a band who is willing to show where they come from and what they are about. Deerhunter is a band who can deliver on album and live. Their recent releases on Kranky are really great modern collectibles.

Pushing buttons, and testing boundaries are definitely on the Deerhunter agenda and who can blame them. Clockcleaner also does this in their own way. Generations of hairdo bands and self-indulgent hipsters have marred the rock-n-roll experience for many. For others, that's the shit they love about rock-n-roll. It's a personal choice. In the end it is about music and expression and more power to you if you have a message to tack onto it. It's refreshing for me to see awesome folks succeeding without having to bow down to anyone.

Text and Live Recording by Matthew Clark

Photo courtesy of Ms. Green-Grass

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