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In concert: Deerhunter at 9:30 Club

deerhunterBradford Cox and Deerhunter have settled in as one of indie's best bands. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By David Malitz

Deerhunter sure became a very pleasant band all of a sudden. It was only 2007 when frontman Bradford Cox would blog about his bandmates’s bowel movements, take the stage wearing a sundress and fake blood, and snarl his vocals in a manner that fit the band’s confrontational, sinister racket. Fast forward to 2010 and things are considerably more mellow. Those dark edges have been smoothed out, lightened up. The racket has become more of a warm glow. Tuesday night’s 9:30 Club concert was broadcast on NPR, for crying out not-quite-as-loud.

The Atlanta quartet has also become a very excellent band, charging past its blog-rock peers on the strength of last month’s “Halcyon Digest” and performances like Tuesday’s. It was a slowly-simmering set that morphed from slightly lackadaisical to an all-enveloping sonic boom. The climax was unquestionably the extended, swirling shoegaze jam “Nothing Ever Happened,” which cast the band as a worthy disciple of wall-of-noise godheads My Bloody Valentine.

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But for the most part there was plenty of volume and not so much noise. You could almost complain that Deerhunter kept things too measured but they were simply doing justice to its new material. Songs such as “Helicopter,” “Don’t Cry,” “Basement Scene” don’t need much in the way of embellishments. Instead of working in the margins the band has settled into a gauzy, mid-tempo comfort zone that suits it surprisingly well. No bluster or theatrics; just shimmer and glide. Cox’s vocals have taken on a sing-songy quality; guitarist Lockett Pundt’s offered two pleasantly straightforward drone-pop detours, “Desire Lines” and “Fountain Stairs.”

Set closer “Flourescent Grey” was one of the few moments when the band’s former touch of evil was revealed. “Why do I dream/So often of his body when/His body will decay,” Cox moaned over a slowly-creeping, slightly creepy guitar riff. It remains one of the band’s most tantalizing songs but was as much a reminder of how quickly and seamlessly the band has hit its stride.

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By David Malitz  | October 13, 2010; 1:26 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  Deerhunter  
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