Zachary Cole Smith, guitarist, singer and songsmith of DIIV, went through a lot in the past years to get to the point of releasing Is The Is Are. Some lows, some highs and hard work. To quote something I found on Wikipedia but originally comes from NME, 6 June 2015:
"I know I have to stay alive at least until the album's done. This is one shot at immortality, if I ever have one. I know it's by far the most important thing I'll ever do. That's very empowering, no matter what fucked-up shit is going on. Every day is a struggle, but I have to be the best I can, stay sober and finish this record."
In other words a now or never album. Is it delivered?, is the question on Is The Is Are.
The fact that I have started this post on first listening, while only half way through the album, gives away something I guess.
As a somewhat riper listener to Is The Is Are I turned back to my review of 'Oshin'. A lot of the things that I wrote on that album in October 2012 still hold true. So three and a half year and no progression? That is one way to look at it. The other is that Is The Is Are holds many a fine (guitar) melody, while Zachery Smith Cole's lightweight voice floats over the songs. How can an artist sing such a repetitive, near-boring song like 'Bent (Roi's Song)' and come up with such a fluttering beautiful riff, to end it all with an utterly dark and boring guitar "solo"? Luckily the riff returns. 'Bent (Roi's Song)' is as dark as the quote above.
DIIV is at its best when it can emulate the The Cure guitar sound. Robert Smith's guitar playing is all over the record, again. It gives Is The Is Are a touch of lightness that 80s music is not supposed to have. It was the end of the world as we know it, remember? DIIV thrives on this light touch, these layers of guitars and each sounding lighter than the other. Reverb and delay are all around.
'Valentine' is one of the song by DIIV that is more direct. The staccato playing propels the song forward, with a few beautiful guitar licks that are smeared out over different parts of the song. Sky Ferreira, Cole Smith's partner, sings on 'Blue Boredom (Sky's Song)'. As she sings in very much the same way, a unity in form remains. That form is something that could be held against DIIV. The songs are somewhat uniform. Where The Cure went of in all sorts of darkness on its first albums, something that sincerely turned me off from listening at the time, DIVV keeps the tempo up. 'A Forest' as a blueprint? The tempo is what keeps this album very interesting and the melodies that are added do the rest in most of the songs.
This is the strong point of Is The Is Are. Cole Smith found all these fine melodies on his guitar and not just one in a song, no several. A lot of time went into finetuning, I'm sure. Something that keeps the album interesting, with something new to discover with each spin.
DIIV may have taken a long time to come up with Is The Is Are. The wait was worth it. DIIV is a very interesting indie rock band to follow.
You can listen to 'Dopamine' here:
or buy at Bol.Com