Diiv, ‘Oshin’ – Album Review
Listening to Diiv’s ‘Oshin,’ it’s hard to fight the feeling that you’ve heard each track before: there’s an intense familiarity here, born of, you’d have to surmise, bandleader Zachary Cole Smith’s obvious affections for the same ’80s dance and shoegaze that have had such profound effects on today’s indie scene — New Order and the Cure being two magnetic poles pulling at your Chairlift and your LCD Soundsystem, and powerfully at Diiv. Their debut, ‘Oshin’ — while being firmly a genre piece of that scene — does not relinquish itself to retread.
The band does have some odd tricks up its Brooklynite sleeves: the group’s former name (Dive) comes from when Smith and bassist Devin Ruben Perez were tripping acid and had a revelation that the Nirvana song of the same name was about them. That, coupled with the band members sharing similar watery astrological signs, begat the group’s name, now changed to a double-voweled homonym — parallel, perhaps, to the album title’s tidal homonymity. (And, with all that esoterica already present, the osh- might be a nod to ’70s super guru Osho, though that might be a tantric stretch). There’s also that bemusedly befuddling album cover, a primitivist (is that still PC?) sketch of a drippy bird pulling up a farmer wielding a rake and a smile, with a small circular panel circle of waves to the upper left. It’s all a bit surreal, to say the least.
Intellectualizing aside, our responses to music are physical: increased heart rate, increased dance rate and the rest. Instrumental intro ‘(Druun)’ provides plenty in that way, dreamy guitars and crisp drums bobbing you into into the metaphysical and majestic ‘Past Lives.’ ‘How Long Have You Known?’ and ‘Earthbody’ also invite too-cool head nods and cool enough hip shakes. But the album’s not all partying like it’s 1989: ‘Oshin’ gets dark and stormy in ‘Doused,’ and the comforting chords of ‘Home’ contrast with the Smith’s mumble that you’ll never find one.
While not groundbreaking, the debut record is not grating, either. It’s uremarkable and enjoyable, andlovers of ey-shadowed late ’80s swayrock could do worse than jumping into ‘Oshin’ — though repeated listens might find this body of water a little shallow.