Release Date: Oct 4, 2019
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Shoegaze
The story of DIIV may be littered with tabloid headlines and controversy, yet Zachary Cole Smith and his band of cohorts have been responsible for some of the finest music released this decade. If 2012's debut Oshin set the scene with its opulent mix of shoegaze, dream pop, and surf rock, 2016'S follow up Is the Is Are demonstrated Smith and co.'s resolve, battling adversity and then defeating every possible obstacle thrown its away. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that their third album Deceiver represents arguably DIIV's finest body of work to date.
Since its earliest days, shoegaze has been seen as druggy music, with warped guitars and murmured vocals that suggest altered states of consciousness and prompt adjectives like "narcotic," "woozy," and "blissful" to describe it. As counterintuitive as it seems, using shoegaze to explore the pain that leads to addiction -- and the pain addiction causes -- works remarkably well on DIIV's third album, Deceiver. They first delved into this territory with Is the Is Are, which offered beautiful proof that they could be a functional band in the wake of Zachary Cole Smith's well-publicized substance abuse issues.
Whichever direction Zachary Cole Smith decided to take DIIV in with this third record, it was always going to represent a turning point. Back in 2016, he threw out the clean lines, taut compositions and chiming guitars that defined his band's debut, 'Oshin', for something altogether messier and more sprawling. 'Is the Is Are' remains sorely underrated; it is a terrific listen that careens across genre boundaries even without any of Cole's personal context adding colour to the picture; when you realise that it chronicles a nightmarish reckoning with his drug addiction, it becomes truly remarkable.
After a false dawn, the troubled New York band attempt to lay some demons to rest on this woozy, Smashing Pumpkins-inspired record DIIV have, it's fair to say, been through some shit. There's been frontman Zachary Cole Smith's battle with heroin addiction, which in 2013 made the indie star the unlikely and uncomfortable subject of tabloid attention, when he and his then-girlfriend, the near-superstar Sky Ferriera, were pulled over in New York by police who uncovered a "plastic bag containing 42 decks of heroin". And last year, the band kicked out bassist Devin Perez, who had, it emerged in 2014, posted sexist, racist, homophobic comments on the incel hang-out 4Chan.
Just a year after DIIV released its sophomore album, Is The Is Are, frontman Zachary Cole Smith conceded it was predicated on a lie. That record purported to be a portrait of addiction and recovery, a tidy narrative culminating in "a light at the end of the tunnel," but recovery is never as easy as merely willing it, and in truth Smith says he hadn't committed to sobriety, let alone mastered it. In hindsight, the album's messaging "really trivializes what people go through," Smith apologized in a 2017 interview.
DIIV's third studio album excels in places the band has never touched before. They've always teetered on the precipice of something great, their music was always wonderfully catchy - 2012's debut Oshin and 2016's follow-up, 'Is The Is Are' were both tip-of-the-tongue offerings - and their projects could have been great if their potential had been fully realised. But fast-forward to their new album and the band is seeing new beginnings.