There’s an incredibly fine line between homage and rip-off. Hearing as many bands as we do here at Treble, it can sometimes be incredibly difficult to piece out the merits of particular albums, especially those done in a very particular genre of music. I’m not even getting to the whole Mozart / Salieri thing either. In other words, one man’s Franz Ferdinand is another man’s Killers, similar on the surface, yet one is adored while the other is reviled. Unless you’re someone like Scott Walker, an artist’s work is always going to be influenced by something that’s come before, generally something that’s well received. When said influence ends up to be a critical darling, it can be some fairly rough and dangerous ground to tread. Take California’s (I’ve read alternately Los Angeles and San Francisco) Darker My Love and their self-titled debut album.
Darker My Love is a band made up of former members of the punk bands the Nerve Agents and the Distillers, plus a pair of Boston transplants. Rather than punk or east coast hardcore, Darker My Love plays music rooted in shoegazer and psychedelia, heavily influenced by the sounds of the Velvet Underground and its various acolytes (read: Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, etc.). The resulting music sounds so much like these bands at varying times that it’s difficult to separate the new band from its predecessors. In a way, it’s almost like hearing a cover band, one so good as to make you question the authenticity of the players. Guitars fuzz and distort in a wonderful cacophony of noise while Tim Presley and Rob Barbato’s voices delicately blend in with the nearly overpowering psychedelia much like Kevin Shields’ or Jim Reid’s.
This is not a difficult album to enjoy. If nothing else, this band has done their homework, placing themselves into the Velvets landscape like a celebrity or religious figure into the album cover of Sgt. Peppers. But will Darker My Love stand out? Songs like “What’s a Mans Paris,” “Helium Heels,” and my personal favorites, “Fall” and “Claws & Paws” will certainly help lead the band toward some kind of popular recognition, or at least a nod from critics still in love with MBV. But whereas the Velvets were the Hydrox cookie, and their various, more commercially successful offshoots the more popular Oreo brand, the question becomes, will DML be the Doublestuf or the generic grocery store label knock-off?
The truth is, Darker My Love, the debut album from the quartet, is so chock full of psychedelic, feedback laden goodness, that it just simply has to be the Doublestuf. If you enhance the experience by turning on the lava lamp, dim the room lights (making the room `darker, my love’ ha!) and fire up that black light; you’re effectively creating the Cartman favorite `quadruplestuf,’ making it the ultimate DML experience. So, stop crying about a world without Kevin Shields, and how the Reid brothers will never get back together, and how there will never be another band like the Velvet Underground and pick up Darker My Love.