Deformer inhabits a specific time and place in the lives of its creators. “The art is now just the life,” is how Dog Day put it in press releases.
So the rest of us are left to peer at this from afar. It’s not unlike looking through the muffled tunnel vision that welcomes visitors to the Malkovich portal in Being John Malkovich.
While there may be no way to truly be present with Deformer, it isn’t so far removed that it can’t be admired from a distance. That admiration won’t come quickly, of course; Nancy Urich and Seth Smith aren’t in the business of making instantly-agreeable albums, and Deformer’s rough-around-the-edges exterior advances that trend. Murk like this isn’t a widespread commodity.
There’s a lot to be excavated from under the surface, though—as idiosyncratic as it may be—and the bits that unearth most easily share much in common with Chad VanGaalen’s Diaper Island and Sebadoh’s more eccentric offerings. There’s some Quasi in this, too. Aside from the sludgy guitars, Urich (who just recently took up the drums) is already exhibiting a few of the hallmarks that make Janet Weiss so recognizable behind the kit.
Deformer is a heavy-handed disc, yes, but it isn’t oppressive. Urich’s vocal contributions and a few of the most memorable riffs since Matador’s heydays (see: “Part Girl” and “I Wanna Mix”) deliver timely doses of levity every two or three songs.
In heavy rotation ’round my house, for the foreseeable future.