Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
It takes some real trying - the college type of effort - to toss all imagery of Deerhunter front man Bradford Cox into the mental trash, but that"s what"s going to happen here. It"s going to get diced up and turned into an unrecognizable pulp, all wiring and figments of what used to pass for a picture. The look of him crouched down on his haunches - legs crossed and ass resting impossibly on the backs of his heels, a position that he seems to favor above all others - has now lost all of its stock.
It"s just gone. His zombie-ish, waify Tom Petty look and awkward haircut are unmistakable and individual, but from now on there"s no attachment to them, just to the eerie emotions and thoughts that he lets out of the hatch and into his fully realized songs of wild inhibitions and ever-present thoughts that cryptically always circle back around to death and the like.
There within the clothing of these songs which fill the Atlanta, Georgia band"s Cryptograms full-length and Fluorescent Grey EP are the frightening daily fears that no matter how much repression takes place or how much one grows into a man or a woman, exist somewhere. They are never allayed or soothed by warm milk or a gentle hand running sweetly through a head of hair. They exist completely raw and unbound, flaring into massive worries and persistent trouble.
Cox"s fears sound like no one else"s who might be walking the ground right now. His are capable of making all of the involuntary processes of the body freeze up into knots and refuse to act because the fears revolve around one general idea of not being participatory any longer. It"s about the end of life, but just as awful is the feeling that is beaten into the head during "Heatherwood," where a character was not seen again. He"s gone - either vanished completely or transformed into an invisible existence that couldn"t be made any lonelier than it sounds to be.
He"s an idea man, Cox is, and with his infatuation with music and the various ways to make it come out of his mouth and his band of worker bees (he and the rest of the band recall what it sounds like it was to work with James Brown - continuous vision uninterrupted and rarely questioned) he"s tapped into a form of expression that can be giving in abundance if never forgiving with the actual matter that"s on display - that heartbreaking work of staggering heartbreak. It"s a form of joy in listening to not know where to pin the source of this destruction - the enigmatic spawn of Cox"s sinking spirits (though as beautiful as they"re likely to ever come) - and instead handing yourself in to the fragile head of a man who is out there trying and trying and trying to get something right.
It"s not the Sisyphus version of pushing that fucking ball up the hill, but it shares some commonalities with that piece of Greek lore. Cox is certainly trying to make the best of everything. He"s trying to get it right - love, life and the shared qualities that are supposed to flow back and forth from one to the other. Unlike many of the notions of heartbreak that inundate record racks and headphones, Cox never seems to cop any of the soppiness, the true sadness on anyone else but himself.
Usually, it"s that girl whose fault we can trace it all back to or it"s just a garden variety kind of vindictive ploy that all of the active ingredients out there in the moveable surroundings contribute to, but there seems to be no mistaking that Cox doesn"t see any of his issues to share the stereotype with the majority of song. He takes the credit that his debt deserves, and maybe that makes him feel more desperate in his songs than all those crybabies out there who wouldn"t know what it"s like to actually realize that we"re smaller than pin pricks and we"re inconsequential. Sadly, it"s true and Cox gets it, but he"s trying - the prince.