Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The idea of the game that Darwin Deez and his band play is that the punchline to every riddle they come up with is a state in the U.S. The answer to this particular riddle is New Hampshire, but for the proper effect and for it to make sense, the words need to be warped a little. You need to combine the "new" and the "ham," obviously drop the "p" and butcher a bit of the pronunciation of "shire." Done correctly, the punchline should sound like this, "New ham? Sure!" To bring the riddle full circle, we leave it up to Deez and friends, whose driving, free and idle time is spent coming up with send-ups such as this: What do you say at the holidays when your centerpiece is ruined and someone saves the day?" You already know how to answer and with the riddle complete, the game thus becomes infectious and contagious. It's likely to be something else with these couch and floor-sleeping musicians from New York City when you encounter them next, but some clever play on Minnesota or Wyoming could give you a nice little icebreaker. It's an obsessive game that requires problem-solving skills a wily use of language. For Deez as a songwriter, it's his wily use of language that gets him through all of the issues surrounding his eager heart and what beats from it.
The self-titled, debut album that he just released is a tattered journal filled with the highs and lows of love, all loaded with a sort of playfulness that lets us believe that the hurt and devastation of some of these loves exists only on the surface and that they can be washed away by a good shower with strong water pressure behind it. The problem is that he might not exactly want to get the residue of those romances off his skin, so he showers infrequently, just letting the dirt and the grime of those broken loves, his broken heart cover him like a filthy tee-shirt. It sounds as if Deez lets himself fall easily and hard and it makes his fantastic and slightly fantastical or make-believe-ish songs of emotional instability, of romantic recession and hard times feel as if they're perversely celebratory. Man, he's down in the dumps, but it sure feels nice! He makes the missteps and the errors take on distorted qualities, as if the purity that he saw in what was ruined is nowhere near actuality. We get the sense that some of these relationships are idolized and mythologized beyond recognition, to a point where they have become exactly what he wants to see and believe. It creates the kind of pop music that's easy for the loners and the lonely, the boys, the girls, the men and the women to all eat up, as it takes them back to those salad days or enhances what's happening in real time: love as a pinched nerve, love as a knock on the funny bone or love as that loud and vicious, heightened sensation where birds and flowers are everywhere. On the catchy "Up In The Clouds," Deez sings, "We used to walk up in the sky/Up where the air is rarified/Went hand-in-hand from cloud to cloud/But when I slipped up we fell out/And I'm sorry I let you down/Down to the ground, but who cares now?/We could be up in the clouds," and we feel as if we're suddenly aloft in a hot air balloon, out of control, but enamored with this new kind of wind in our hair and on our faces. It's as if we're going to get to a place where we'll be halfway between the ground and those clouds that he's longing to be back up upon.