In October, DIIV returned with their third LP, Deceiver, after three years of silence. They perfected their dreamy, post-punk sound on previous record, Is The Is Are, full of punchy drums swirled in a sea of hazy guitars. Much has changed since then; for starters, DIIV have since parted ways with their original bass player, Devin Ruben Perez, after a series of offensive posts he made on 4chan, in which he bizarrely revealed his own identity. More tellingly, however, vocalist and guitarist Zachary Cole Smith checked himself into rehab for “long-haul inpatient treatment” in 2017 following a public battle with addiction.
In 2013, Smith was arrested in New York with then-girlfriend Sky Ferreira and was charged with driving a stolen vehicle, as well as charged with heroin and ecstasy possession. Today, Smith is no longer sporting his long bleach-blonde locks, perhaps in an attempt to distance himself from previous Kurt Cobain comparisons, and now has an army-style buzz cut. On Deceiver DIIV are more urgent, more heavy, drawing directly from the sound of 90s shoegaze, yet in a way that is still dreamy and uniquely DIIV. We see the band stepping away from their post-punk roots and stepping towards a twisted grunge sound, at times, ironically incorporating Nirvana’s pedal-driven atmosphere more than ever.
The icy wind coming from the River Mersey pushes onlookers into Invisible Wind Factory on this cold February night. Supporting are Canadian pop-punk outfit CHASTITY, and the venue begins to fill up as they take the stage. In this day and age, pop-punk is notoriously difficult to pull off tastefully. Pop-punk’s place in the sun came and went as its audience grew up. Today, it’s hard to take the genre completely at face value without a heavy dose of nostalgia or winking guilty pleasure. Sure, it can be done right, with the right ratio of pop to punk. However, Chastity occasionally fall on the wrong side of that ratio. Tracks like Anxiety and Sun Poisoning sound like something Sum 41 would have written, at any point in their career lasting a quarter of a century. Children is a breath of fresh air, however, far less whiny and truly angry, with all the heaviness of Deftones.
Due to the enormous size of Invisible Wind Factory, there is still room to move around even as DIIV take the stage. They begin with Deceiver opener Horsehead, a perfect example of their new direction. Gone is the robotic, motorik beat, instead replaced by a fluid wall of noise that ebbs and flows with wherever the song leads. This, as well as follow up Skin Game and Like Before You Were Born, feature a wash of guitars that sound as though they were beamed directly from the planet of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Not an easy feat seeing as Kevin Shields himself doesn’t remember exactly how he made such alien noises.
DIIV come in waves of euphoria, dropping to a quiet whisper and exploding into an exhilarating roar, all while Smith’s vocals float beautifully over the top. Their strength has always been in simplicity: earlier songs like Bent (Roi’s Song) and Oshin (Subsume) focus on catchy guitar lines, with each member moving independently from each other. In earlier material they move not as a unit but with each individual member fulfilling their role, and dropping in and out to create tension and release. On Deceiver they move together as a band, and take you away to a frosted dreamland. It is a refreshing rock album, which is something increasingly hard to come by these days. It is inspiring to see DIIV continue to innovate and build upon an old sound without sounding tired or cliché. There are clear nods to the past but nothing overt or lacking in creativity. DIIV are a joy to see live; nothing is lost in translation from record to performance.