DIIV - Is the is Are - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

DIIV - Is the is Are

by Sean Hewson Rating:6 Release Date:2016-02-05
DIIV’s first album, Oshin, was OK. And now, their second album is to. This is a shame because Zachary Cole Smith has described this album as "one shot at immortality". The sense that I get is that they've thrown everything at this album but it's actually had a detrimental effect. Like an out of form batsman, they're trying too hard, chasing everything.
But let's start at the top with what is good about this album. Over 17 songs, bassist Devin Ruben Perez and drummer Colby Hewitt (who has since left) lay down the kind of alternative 80s rhythm parts that you can hear on the soundtracks to John Hughes films. On song after song they are irrepressible. Over the top of this Andrew Bailey and Zachary Cole Smith layer hundreds of guitar ideas. When this works, as on 'Dopamine', it sounds joyful. 'Dopamine' also has the most memorable vocal melody and the best moments on Is the Is Are are when DIIV find a truly memorable hook. They do this again with the guitar riff in 'Bent (Roi's Song)' and with the vicious guitar interplay on 'Dust'.
In the middle is Zachary Cole Smith's voice which is both a strength and a weakness. The voice itself is quite weak and without much in the way of range. But what is good is the way that Smith, as producer, uses delay, reverb and echo to build it into a strength. The down side of having a limited voice is that there are few memorable  tunes on Is the Is Are. Again and again there are verses and guitar parts crying out for a big chorus but instead there is just another guitar part. This means that the 17 songs just pass like traffic, only occasionally grabbing the attention. 
Finally, what is bad about this album is how derivative it can be. It's obvious that DIIV are fans of all kinds of music but they're often just a bit too close to their heroes. The Cure can be heard in the single-string lead lines and the flanged bass. Kevin Shields' tremolo guitar makes a few appearances. There's Neu! on Is the is Are. Sky Ferreira does a Kim Gordon impression on Blue Boredom (Sky's Song). There is total theft from John Squire on Valentine and from Primal Scream (who stole it from Can (who kind of nicked it from The Bible)) in the 'I was blind and now I see, you made a believer out of me.' line in 'Mire (Grant's Song)' which also steals from Pavement in the guitar.
Apparently Zachary Cole Smith wrote over 150 songs between the release of Oshin and July 2014 and it feels that there are bits from every one on this album. But, without strong hooks, it's just too much and the good parts are buried by the mediocre parts.  

Comments (3)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I personally really liked Oshin. This one isn't quite as good, though, but still decent. Good review.

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nice sturdy review Sean.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Diiv's best work was the recent Cat Power cover "nude as the news" on Sirius XM's live show.

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