Yes, yes…the beret-wearing one stares yet into the distance, this time from the end of what could be a dark, lonely alleyway, stoically seeking any possible way back for mankind’s devolving future. Or perhaps he’s eyeing a too-long occupied toilet in a dark bar. Hard to say, for as is true with NATIVE, despair and delight often travel as a twosie.
For the first commercial LP of Darwin Candidate’s young tenure (following their playfully disdainful debut EP released last April) it was time to more closely explore what exactly that monkey might be thinking. The results are a mixture of consistency through variation that recycles their earlier record’s subtle stab at evolved social leadership while more willfully extending it to the subject of perpetual and ubiquitous conflict, both within and without. CheChimpy asks, at last, “Dafuq is your problem, people?”.
Not an easy question to answer, if indeed answering it is even the point. With the release of two singles – one on this New Year’s Evening, the other on tomorrow’s New Year’s Day – this century’s DC3 continues exploring the culture of self as it relates to widespread tension and conflict. In “Going Native”, a shape-shifting she-devil lures a man into a primitive state by tapping into his overprotective instincts and heroic self-image. Or, it’s about becoming a werewolf. Either way, its central conceit is clear and announces the record’s core business: the disastrous yet often disturbingly pleasurable fallout of indulging our basest desires on both a personal and social scale.
Sonically, “Going Native” feels like it was forged in the sunny 80s and left to rust in the rainy 90s in that it adheres to a rock-pop format that’s been dropped on the street and made to fail the five-second rule. Which is to say it sounds slick but soiled, both in a good way. Like sex in the woods or a cozy picnic in the mud, each filthy with savory delights. The unholy trio gets their heaviest to date here but always remembers to lift things up before they get too sodden. There’s plenty of subversive humor to be found as well, but much of it is sung so earnestly as to be missed as such. “…I’m drowning in rain/I’m buried in wood” sings front-person Norton, never quite making it clear as to what kind of wood he refers. Catchy, cheeky, and a little crass; that might best describe this come-hither Side A.
With Side B, we’re reminded that abject narcissism is an evergreen rock and roll tradition, and “Long Blink” is certainly not its first “to whom it may concern” diss track. It may, however, be the first to illustrate a direct causal relationship between wallowing in the commercial gain begotten from artistic appropriation and losing one’s very soul. The song rides the thermal wind of a repeating guitar line that alternately rises and gives out, sending the listener climbing and falling in tight, squealing fits, while dangling them over a jagged, mountainous void where crashing brings the kind of hangover one gets from dining out on “…luck and weak champagne/only serves to ease your shame”. It does all of this while sounding like a spicy soup of influences with individual ingredients one can’t quite place, perhaps mined from a lurid moment when the ’70s did it with the’8os thus conceiving the ’90s, and then wafted the smell tauntingly at their peers. Do Darwin Candidate have peers? Perhaps not, which is not the same thing as saying they’re peerless. It’s more to say that they don’t recall a crowd one can easily recognize despite somehow belonging to them all.
Darwin Candidate are rock and roll’s hairy new bastards.
So if it feels good you’ll probably do it, regardless of what hell your short-term decisions with long-term implications reap upon your soul and the souls of others. Sometimes it feels so right, so superhuman, that our lizard brains can’t help but give the order. DC gets that. Still, feeling superhuman isn’t always a good thing, and sometimes it’s fucking awful. Singing about it might even be worse, but damn if it doesn’t sound good.