Release Date: Aug 26, 2013
Record label: Kranky
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Shoegaze
Any band as prolific as Disappears -- who released four albums in as many years -- would grow and change quickly, but the revolving door behind the band's drum kit allowed the rest of the group to challenge themselves with each new set of songs. On Era, they continue the propulsive minimalism of the Kone EP, which was their first release with former Anatomy of Habit drummer Noah Ledger (previous drummer Steve Shelley left after making Pre Language due to touring conflicts). While Disappears have never been the showiest of bands to begin with, here they strip things down to the bare minimum and emphasize their stark post-punk roots.
For Chicago based quartet Disappears, time seems to move at a different, altogether more indeterminate pace. Theirs is a sound as unhurried as the greats of experimental rock, as that of Can or Swans or Talk Talk. Yet, for all the seemingly laidback landscape within which their tracks develop, Disappears are also restless. Era, their fourth full-length in as many years, is an ever shifting portrait of a band in constant motion, despite the apparent willingness to embrace repetition and development of texture in their compositions.
Chicago’s Disappears would like you to believe that their fourth LP, Era, stands for a new beginning. Well, they’re only half right. The album marries their previous releases in one noisy, polyamorous black wedding that shows promise for the future, but is more a celebration of the past. Think about the band’s 2012 LP Pre Language, and their song "Minor Patterns" where singer Brian Case sneers, “Why bother, it’s been done.” That defeatist phrase must be something that sticks in the craw of young psych acolytes.
Perennially productive post-punks Disappears return with their fourth album in as many years, Era. It’s a creeping, crawling freak of a record from the Chicagoan group; beside it, a lot of the other post-punk-indebted efforts of recent years sound tame and plastic, having assimilated the darkness, the tones and the rhythms from the ‘70s and ‘80s post-punk bands but with one eye clearly on commercial success, adapting the sound to conventional song structures and excising anything that might prove too much of a challenge to the listener. With a lot of the best original post-punk bands, you got the sense that they were making music solely for themselves, seeing how far the frontiers of music could be pushed to satisfy their own curiosity – the audience was almost irrelevant.
Disappears sustains its somber phase on the sparse Era. As for a timeframe, this updates sounds from three decades ago: post-punk, Goth, hardcore, noise. It harshens an edgy, brutal tone. Gradually growing less accessible in its discography (which can be its own recommendation), Disappears favors aggression overlaying melody, if submerged in distortion and reverberation.
For a few years, it felt like we had the perfect band to summarize Chicago. Wilco made music about gazing drunk and heartbroken at skyscrapers you could never afford to live in, about stealthing down streets that always felt too wide. But maybe the expiration date on Wilco’s glassy pathos as an urban emblem has come and gone. Chicago keeps boiling with problems that don’t fit inside easy midwestern Americana.
If I had to compile a top five of the most frustrating bands (and I will do, one day) then Chicago’s Disappears would be fairly high in that list. Their career, for this writer at least, is a series of false starts, failed experiments and missed opportunities. Led by Brian Case (ex of 90 Day Men and the Ponys) they promised much with debut album Lux, a nice mix of Kraut/Velvet Underground chug, gloomy psych and a touch of melody without losing any intensity, then blew it with the dull repetition of Guider before muddying the waters further with third full-length Pre Language – a record that trudged along disappointingly despite Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley joining the band on drums, and seemed more in thrall to things past than was particularly healthy.