Published Oct 03, 2019Zachary Cole Smith has always cited Nirvana as a key influence: he talks about them in interviews, threw an In Utero tape in a blender in DIIV's very first video, and even looks a little bit like Kurt Cobain (at least when he grows his hair long).
All that being said, DIIV have never particularly sounded like Nirvana — until now. The band's third album, Deceiver, incorporates the crunchy palette of grunge into their usual reverb-hazed shoegaze soundscapes. Smith's soft, sighing vocals are still pure dream pop, but now he borrows his distorted riffs and loud-quiet-loud structures from alt-rock. Just listen to the standout single "Blankenship": the surging groove and liquid arpeggios are classic-sounding DIIV, but they unexpectedly give way to bursts of searing guitar.
Elsewhere, "Like Before You Were Born" and "For the Guilty" have stormy explosions of fuzz that find the middle ground between grunge and My Bloody Valentine. Imagine Kevin Shields playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and you'll have a general sense of what these dynamics sound like.
Between all of the gigantic choruses and comedown verses, Deceiver sets a melancholy mood apparently inspired by Smith's highly publicized struggles with addiction. The shoegaze production means that the lyrics rarely jump out of the mix, but the phrases that do emerge — "I was a stranger in my skin," "I can't live like this anymore" — allude to alienation and self-destruction. In particular, "Skin Game" is a stark portrait of the American opioid crisis that calls out big-pharma family the Sacklers by name.
It's dark subject matter — which makes grunge's famously gloomy sonic palette a particularly good fit for a record that's as beautiful as it is bleak. (Captured Tracks)