By now, anyone reading this review has likely already read Sasha Frere-Jones’ screed on the whiteness of indie rock and it’s apparent lack of soul or swing. I’m not going to get into the greater argument right now, but in his essay, he expressed disappointment in Devendra Banhart’s admittance to being an R. Kelly fan, though his music sounds nothing like Kells’ sexed-up R&B. That doesn’t mean, however, that Banhart isn’t influenced in some way by Kelly’s music, it just may not be as obvious to those who aren’t him. Case in point: the press sheet accompanying The Intelligence’s Deuteronomy states that songwriter Lars Finberg took his primary influences from the likes of The Zombies and early Bee Gees when constructing his third album. Not that I doubt him at all, but the album sounds like The Fall.
Mind you, when I say The Intelligence sound like The Fall, that’s meant as a compliment. Maybe Eddie Argos doesn’t appreciate the comparison, and perhaps Mark E. Smith is an irascible, drunken jerk, but the man has made some brilliant albums in his day. The Intelligence, as well, have made an incredible, dizzying punk rock ride on Deuteronomy, with sounds as varied as they are ear-busting, and with a similarly inspired post-punk energy as that garble-voiced Brit and his band’s many permutations. Having honed his chops in bands like A-Frames and The Dipers, Finberg knows his way around an abrasive tune, but here, it seems that those Zombies and Bee Gees influences have seeped in not so much in the way of orchestral ambitiousness, but in adding some hooks in-between the sandpaper riffs and sickly moans.
As one enters Deuteronomy, it appears manic and slightly askew, yet the melodies retain some sort of immediacy on opening track “Moon Beeps.” “Secret Signals” goes catchier still, with a touch of the A-Frames’ abrasive punk scratch. By third track “How To Improve Your Hearing Without Listening,” Finberg takes his careening vehicle into an organ-fueled fun house rock sound that recalls The Specials. Then “Dating Cops” finds him howling “going out with you is like going out with a cop,” whatever the hell that means, and “Tubes” pumps up the organ again for an even stranger carnival ride. Yet nothing is nearly as thrilling as the surf and fuzz guitar spiral slide into lunacy with “Our Solar System,”
I hear a lot of things on Deuteronomy—The Fall, Brainiac, Syd Barrett, Black Lips, Devo—but The Zombies and the Bee Gees are certainly not necessarily part of that group. That’s the beauty of an inspired yet fractured artist like Lars Finberg. What goes into his cacophonous Cuisinart is nowhere near as interesting as what comes out.
Black Lips – Good Bad Not Evil
Brainiac – Bonsai Superstar
The Fall – Grotesque (After the Gramme)
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.