Arts Desk

Deerhunter @ 9:30: Not Too Cool, Not Uncool

There's something improbable about Deerhunter, especially now that they're playing clubs as big as the 9:30. They don't look like much; or maybe it's that they look like they could've been a lot of other things, including not a rock band at all.* But last night they sounded utterly satisfying. Two things:

1. I'm not sure it's appropriate to use the word "Southern" to describe Deerhunter anymore, except in the most plainly geographic way. Frontman Bradford Cox dedicated the first song to John Cage, which is pretty much a quiet fuck-you to Southern-ness, no matter how you size it up. And there's nothing particularly region-specific about the live versions of songs from Halcyon Digest, the band's latest and richest disc.

2. These days there's not much wasted energy in the composition, arrangement or performance of any Deerhunter song. For a lot of bands, that kind of economy might be a recipe for boredom. But for Deerhunter, polish and maturity mean bigger, more impressive sounds. The guitars fill up a room, all right. NPR taped the show; that sense of ease-without-easiness will probably come through.

* Without overselling Deehunter's potential, I say the list of similarly improbable-looking bands includes, but is not limited to, Husker Du, R.E.M. and the Minutemen.

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