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Darwin Deez: Double Down

review deez x1 cong

Deez (Darwin Merwan Smith to his mum) released an improbably successful self-titled debut in 2010. We say improbable: on the flimsiest body of work known to man he sold some copies and landed good slots at festies. The album had a handful of good songs and the rest you could overlook because he was so cute. His trick was looking and sounding different: headband, curly hair and distinctive music that sounded like The Strokes covered by a small boy on a Casio synth. We saw him live once and he was highly entertaining, stretching out his thin set with covers and silly dancing. Morrissey it was not. His second album was more of the same but not as good; this new one is more of the same but better.
Deez’s sound is somewhere between the guitar music of The Strokes and the quirky acoustic pop of Herman Dune, the French duo who are equally hit and miss. Deez is allegedly a band (and we apologise to the members if it is) but it comes across as if it’s just Smith, his guitar and a drum machine. Smith has a slightly high-pitched voice so you get his vocals, crisp guitar and a steady drum beat, with a sparse, clipped sound. Tracks are dominated by the guitar or vocals at any one time; bass and drum are very much to the back. Lyrics are often witty and amusing, and never less than intelligent.
When he gets it right, he produces appealing if lightweight pop and we think he gets it right for most of this album; there are probably fewer fillers than on the debut.
Opener Last Cigarette is good, a pleasant tune about giving up the cancer sticks after just one more. Track two The Mess She Made is slicker, even a bit West Coast, with some tidy guitar playing. Also good is Bag Of Tricks, which has added funk/soul.
At times you think it’s written with his English audience in mind, Right When It Rains having a chorus that sees Deez wanting to be “soaking wet in Somerset”, a plea for a Glasto booking if ever there was one.
It’s fairly entertaining. People who liked the debut will probably like this, and he’s pleasingly offbeat.

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