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Album Review: DIIV – Is The Is Are

By on Wednesday, 2nd March 2016 at 12:00 pm

DIIV album cover for Is The Is AreFour years in the making, the sophomore effort from DIIV is finally here. After being plagued by a plethora of issues, both legally and creatively, not to mention leading man Zachary Cole Smith’s idea that he’s probably going to die pretty soon, so this release is his way to achieve immortality. Finally, over-dramatic rock stars are back. These exclamations of perceived doom are valued only because his creative output matches his train of thought. On ‘Is The Is Are’, a double album no less, we’re treated to a sonic landscape filled with layered guitars and reverb-saturated vocals.

First track ‘Out Of Mind’ is a dreamy, focused number that wouldn’t be a miss on a War On Drugs’ album. The slow-paced guitar that overlaps the faster tempoed bass guitar and drums creates a unique conflict in sound that really drives the song forward. With Cole Smith’s vocals, the tune is a strong performance that is only developed throughout the al-bum. “Everything you do, just comes so easily to you”, he sings, and you can’t help but think this parallels his songwriting talent.

The bass and drums continue to drive the second track ‘Under the Sun’. In a very similar fashion to the prior, the two elements seem to meld into a state of familiarity, which at this stage of the album isn’t a bad thing. Luckily, things change pace, so to speak, with ‘Brent (Rois’ Song)’. It focuses on a fuzzy, harsher guitar sound that entwines with a lighter, more pleasing sound, building a stereophonic wall. ‘Dopamine’ is where things reach a deeper level, with the song concerning Cole-Smith’s own drug issues. “Burning down, running in place, got so high, I finally felt like myself”, these are notions that are often approached in songwriting, particularly in rock, but it’s the way this song is crafted to emulate these ideas that sets it apart. It sounds as if Cole-Smith has taken his experiences and tried as much as possible to bring us into his world and speak to us, particularly with the series of lines concerning advancing age: “Would you give your 81st year, for a glimpse of heaven and now and here?”


Sky Ferreira, Cole-Smith’s girlfriend, makes an appearance on ‘Blue Boredom’, utilising spoken word. It’s almost a post-punk ’80s facsimile that works oddly well when considering the previous tracks and how Cole-Smith’s vocals turn it away from post-punk and turn into a beast of its own. Carrying on, the tracks reach an almost instrumental state with vocals being few and far-between, building the overall atmosphere of the record. Considering the release’s length, its sole purpose should be to keep you going along this extended journey but the record can feel a bit too wandering at times. This is all taken back in with ‘Take Your Time’, with one of the stronger guitar lines that cuts through and forms a dark, brooding atmosphere.

Title track ‘Is The Is Are’ has one of the more intelligible vocal performances, with the ultra-heavy reverberation of previous tracks being taken back a step, and has some of the finest production, with tape delay being employed to create a wall of sound that slowly begins to overtake the entire track, before becoming the last thing to ring out at the end. ‘Mire (Grant’s Song)’ is the most vicious sounding track, with the guitars being wildly layered, almost of out time with each other in places and the vocals encase the entire stereophonic field, so much so you feel almost drowned in it. The track is fantastically haunting, with even the inclusion of distant screams during the instrumental breaks throughout. The performance at this point continues this pace through till ‘Healthy Moon’, which reverts back to the previous, more dream-state approach. The final stages of this behemoth almost act as a resolution. Album closer ‘Waste of Breath’ utilises both approaches seen throughout the record, turning from an airy, hopefulness into an attacking, sinister break, to where it finally reaches an almost peaceful resolve.

If this record were to be Cole-Smith’s finale so to speak, it would certainly be a worthy memorial. Throughout the album, we’re faced with a whirlpool of sonic personality that fits his persona extremely well, though there are moments that possibly should have been left on the cutting room floor. It’s a solid effort, and one that should hopefully solidify the career of a self-professed tortured artist.


‘Is The Is Are’ is out now via Captured Tracks. To read more on DIIV on TGTF, head here.


DIIV / March 2016 UK Tour

By on Wednesday, 2nd March 2016 at 9:00 am

Brooklyn’s Zachary Cole Smith, better known as DIIV, has announced a March headline tour of the UK, following the release of his second album ‘Is The Is Are’, now available from Captured Tracks. (Steven’s review of the LP follows at noon today.) Smith and his band have also just revealed a list of American tour dates, which you can find on their official Facebook.

Tickets for the following live dates are available now. You can find TGTF’s past coverage of DIIV back here.

Wednesday 16th March 2016 – London Rough Trade (in store)
Thursday 17th March 2016 – Birmingham Institute
Friday 18th March 2016 – London Heaven
Saturday 19th March 2016 – Nottingham Rock City Basement
Sunday 20th March 2016 – Manchester Gorilla
Monday 21st March 2016 – Sheffield Plug
Tuesday 22nd March 2016 – Leeds Belgrave Hall
Thursday 24th March 2016 – Glasgow SWG3
Friday 25th March 2016 – Edinburgh Bongo Club
Saturday 26th March 2016 – Newcastle Riverside
Sunday 27th March 2016 – Liverpool Arts Club
Monday 28th March 2016 – Brighton Haunt


Live Review: Ride with DIIV at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 17th September 2015

By on Monday, 21st September 2015 at 2:00 pm

Since the announcement last November 2014 these Oxford shoegaze legends were reforming, they’ve been on quite a (wait for it) Ride. They’ve just announced last week the upcoming release of ‘Nowhere25’, a new CD and DVD on the 6th of November to nicely dovetail with the final third of their North American dates. I’ve always been fond of their sound, if not a massive fan, but something changed when I heard them doing their first radio performance in years at Maida Vale for BBC 6 Music back in June and being interviewed by Steve Lamacq, and ahead of this show in DC, their first date on a 2-month campaign of our continent, I was getting very excited. Having never seen them play before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When the lights dimmed for their headline set, an extended, serious-sounding instrumental seemed to suggest the imminent arrival of Darth Vader or one of the Jurassic Park dinosaurs to the stage. But before I get ahead of myself, let me speak a bit about the opening act first.

Leader Zachary Cole Smith of DIIV (pronounced ‘dive’) explained that they were from “New Bork City” and said “s’anks” (I guess his silly version of “thanks”) several times during their band’s set. While with his long blonde hair and guitar stance, Smith might easily be mistaken for Kurt Cobain, his getup for the gig Thursday night definitely would have thrown you off: an oversized shirt, hippie pantaloons and a sun hat more appropriate for the Kalahari Desert was atop his head, unlike his bandmates who were all wearing baseball caps. (Eventually he removed his hat, I guess he got overheated.) The young upstarts’ inclusion on Ride’s tour made many scratch their heads, I’m sure.

DIIV performing live at 9:30 Club, Washington DC

The extended, jammy style of their songs, however, seemed to fit well with Ride’s oeuvre. DIIV’s older songs such as ‘Ocean’ and ‘Wasted Breath’ drew enthusiastic cheers from their young fans in the crowd. However, it became quickly evident by the number of new songs that Smith introduced, including ‘Loose Ends’ and ‘Douse’, that they were smartly using this fortuitous North American support slot to road test new material ahead of the release of their hotly anticipated second album ‘ Is the Is Are’, the follow-up to 2012’s ‘Oshin’. I have to be honest, after a while, all the songs sort of melted into one another to me and were indistinguishable, though the guitars sounded pretty killer. Or maybe that’s the whole point?

Despite the pretentiousness of their walk-on music, Ride wiped away any doubts of their musicianship and on the sincerity of their reuniting by speedily launching into their first number, ‘Leave Them All Behind’ from their 1992 Creation album ‘Going Blank Again’. It was as if the last 20 years had never happened. Surrounded by men of varying ages swaying or headbanging in time to the music, mostly in cargo shorts or the occasional jeans, it was a strange place to find myself in but was oddly comforting too. If I needed a kick in the arse to revisit the British rock in the ’90s, this show was just about as good as any: the guitars were on point, loud and unyielding except to the underlying song melodies, and after the kind of awful summer I’ve been having, they jolted me back to life, firing up my senses as I’m sure everyone else in the 9:30 felt that night.

Ride performing live at 9:30 Club, Washington DC 1

One of my friends saw The Jesus and Mary Chain last year and had warned me that they were a boring band live, and I was concerned that Ride could very well be the same. Not at all. I was sure from the moment main lead singer Mark Gardener said the words, “Washington, it’s been a long time,” followed by the audience’s massive response in cheers and applause that they were going to be totally different, and they were, so energetic and feeding off the energy of punters who had waited over 2 decades to see their favourite band again. Part of this I’m sure was due to drummer Laurence “Loz” Colbert’s late arrival; apparently he had arrived at the club 30 minutes before showtime and for a while, the other band members were concerned that they would have to cancel the show, unable to go on without him.

For the occasion, they trotted out ‘Birdman’ and ‘Decay’, which haven’t been played live since 1995 and 1991, respectively, dedicating the latter to some friends they had in the audience. As you might imagine, some Ride fans in attendance went absolutely mental hearing these songs they thought they might never hear again live. For me, it was ‘Like a Daydream’, ‘Cool Your Boots’ and ‘Twisterella’ that hit the spot, the intricate lead guitar work by Andy Bell on ‘Twisterella’ a special treat to finally witness live. However you feel about their back catalogue, if you want a rock ‘n’ roll primer from some legends still kicking in the business, you won’t go wrong with buying a ticket to this tour.

Ride performing live at 9:30 Club, Washington DC 2

After the cut: Ride’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Ride with DIIV at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 17th September 2015


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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