Darwin Deez are a New York based band best known for their spunky 2009 hits Radar Detector and Constellations, songs which at the time perfectly captured the youthful indie dream-pop serving as the alternative soundtrack to young lovers everywhere. The release of their 2018 album 10 Songs That Happened When You Left Me with My Stupid Heart, was an intrigue in itself; the title alone being the biggest hint that Darwin has yet to deviate from his brand of goofy, self-deprecating lyrical wit.
The beautiful Oran Mor in Glasgow served as a fitting backdrop to their visit to the city, intimate and cavernous enough to embody the bubbling personality the band bring to the stage. There is an impeccable taste in the choice of support act here too; the immensely watchable Dylan Cartlidge was up first, blending funk and rock with superb charisma and a hilariously patterned Hawaiian shirt. Without knowing who he was before walking into the venue, his mid-gig announcement that he’d released a track with Jamie T didn’t come as a surprise. ‘Up and Upside Down’ is a huge crowd pleaser – groovy basslines interweave with Jamie’s trademark vocals to rip-roaring success.
When Darwin and the band appear, the mood in the room has already been established. If anything, it seems that he takes longer to adjust to the atmosphere than the audience do. There’s a bit of a disconnect as he plays the first couple of tracks, with ‘Getaway’, one of the lead singles from the new album, coming across a little stiff. There are hand gestures galore and the odd unfortunate “let’s hear you, Glasgow” permeating the space between the crowd and the stage. It was almost as if someone needed to let them know we were having as much fun as we were. There’s a midway point where the band stop playing to shake out their nerves, dancing around to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’ as the crowd cheer along in bizarre delight. There’s an aloof theatricality to Darwin, a man comfortable in his New York mannerisms and taking great pleasure in laughing at himself:
“Where’s the hair gone?”
“Oh, I’ve just gone through a break-up.”, he quips.
He then launches into ‘Say It First’, arguably the best-written song on the new album, and a wonderful showcase for his emotive vocals. Melodically, it’s a great moment – he’s the boyfriend you remember from years ago, the one who never wanted to grow up. He’s relatable, sweet and immensely likeable. It’s upwards from here. Glasgow audiences are always admirably upbeat, the expletive filled chants buoying the group into letting their guard down. ‘Too Shy to Take a Shine’ is a gem in their set-list, with some parts almost spoken and others sung with intense vulnerability. As endearing as his tightly wound, grimacing performances are, it’s relieving to see him relax on stage. “Let’s go, Glasgow. It’s Friday night, and I think I’m scheduled to lose around $7000 dollars on this tour, so we might as well have fun!” he calls out.
Once the new material has been exhausted, and the band do a pretty stellar job of showcasing it, there’s no choice but to go into the old favourites. ‘Redshift’, memorable for its lofty guitar riffs and powerful chorus, brings glowing smiles to the faces of everyone in the room. Leaving the stage without even hinting at the two lead singles from their self-titled 2009 album, it was self-evident that they’d return to play them in their encore set.
The energy they brought back to the stage for ‘Radar Detector’ was telling of their familiarity with the song; they played it with joy and humour, confidently, like they’d just stepped into a comfortable pair of slippers. ‘Constellations’ was absolutely the song to go out on, and they do so to an audience echo of the spacey, melancholic vocal refrain that the band are so famous for.
If they were ever once daunted by the prospect of playing out to Scottish crowds, Darwin Deez should sleep easy knowing they’re fun to watch and easy to engage with. I’ve no doubt they’ll be back to dance around goofily to our people in years to come.
By Maisie McGregor