Thought things had been a bit quiet as of late? It has for the most part, with indie bands flocking in the wake and dealing out flamboyantly friendly rock and pop left, right and centre. That lull may be because California’s DEAP VALLY have been AWOL – though not hibernating however – for they have been hovelled away brewing the next bout of noise.
Believe it or not, it has been three years since the duo – comprised of Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards – bowed out in the wake of their debut album Sistronix, though it feels like longer. Along with that album came a lot of success and recognition on both sides of the pond (after all, you know you’ve made it when you play Later… with Jools Holland), earning them slots at festivals like good ol’ Glasto and supporting Iggy Pop at Hyde Park. Playing with the big boys – like said Iggy – suits them, for as a band Deap Vally have always been similarly unapologetic, attacking a genre that is, even to this day, dominated by men with much gusto. However it is impossible to separate their music from their sex; it is undoubtedly and unapologetically female, and it is all the better for it.
Entitled Femejism, their second album has been on a slow burn with the band drip feeding new tracks for the better part a year and as the title would suggest, whilst not being necessarily feminine, the album is soaked in female sentiment. ‘Julian’ is an unrepentant rip-roaring rollercoaster, and you have to feel for whoever “Julian” is, for by the way Troy frivolously declares “We’re not in love, so let’s just dance” the other was never a real contender in her court.
And by “declare” we mean squeal, shriek and screech, for whilst Troy was a powerful vocalist before she has really made moves to improve her performance. Naysayers would state that the unavoidable comparison to Karen O – or alternately her Courtney Love-esque gurn in ‘Beauty Queen – depletes Troy’s value but simply put, Femejism is such an enjoyable experience that it’s hard to care and 100% forgivable.
Likewise, Deap Vally have made real effort to broaden their sound – and similarly their appeal – and quite simply, it pays off. Whereas before songs such as ‘End Of The World’ were yes, noisy, but still a bit bland, the ones that comprise Femejism are anything but forgettable, something that itself can be a challenge when you are limited to a drum kit and a single guitar – a marketable talking point yet also the curse of the two piece band. That said, they are hardly the same band in the Britpop aping self-empowering anthem ‘Gonnawanna’ – where Edwards goads us into action with her rolling drums or the clatters of the groovy, gasping ‘Post-Funk’, where there are echoes of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s (fun fact: Nick Zinner co-produced) and later, a quick (but not quiet) nod to Le Tigre in ‘Two Seat Bike’s “rama-lama-ding-dong”.
For all of their reinvigoration, Deap Vally are not breaking new ground here, as with any album that overtly tackles feminism there is an unavoidable repetition of issues (but then again, if they weren’t still issues, then they wouldn’t need repeating). ‘Teenage Queen’ – much like ‘Little Baby Beauty Queen’ – attempts to deconstruct objectification, slut-shaming and female value and gender bias, but is ultimately less memorable than their more buoyant moments.
For as an album Femejism positively bristles with energy, even if at times it is misfired in their grungier moments – as with the less remarkable ‘Bubble Baby’ – but it is recent single ‘Smile More’ that is most likely resonate with their audience. After all, every woman can relate to the discourse that goes down, to quote: “Stranger in the bar tells me to smile more, I look at him and ask ‘What for? I am happily unhappy, man, and no, I don’t wanna shake your hand.” The song is a mess of bold, contradicting statements (which is what being a woman is all about after all) and belies an irritancy that is ironically amusing, just like the word “femejism” itself, and that is how Deap Vally strike a chord; they don’t take themselves too seriously, even when dissecting matters that they care about, and whether you opt to take them seriously or not, there’s no way that you will ever be able to can avoid, or them or give them some of your attention.