In Praise of Disappears, Both Live and on Their New Album, Pre Language

03/01/2012 2:38 PM |


A friend of mine who’s in a band urged me to go see Disappears when they came through town. This was June 2010 and the band’s debut, Lux, was still pretty fresh at that point. I liked the album—anything that you can even vaguely compare to The Fall will interest me—but I didn’t love it. They were playing Union Pool with the Ponys (Brian Case is in both bands) and Woven Bones, a venue only a few blocks from my house, though, and I trusted my friend’s taste, so I went.

Whoa. What Lux didn’t convey was the sheer force of seeing Disappears live, somewhere between a garbage truck and a bullet train: sleek and adrenalized, but aslo heavy as shit with more than a little grime. The rhythm section was just so locked in, I spent most of the show just staring at bassist Damon Carruesco and drummer Graeme Gibson as they pounded out a motorik groove. Case and lead guitarist Jonathan Van Herik brought punk (both pre- and post- ) to the table as well as the speed.

They functioned as one, though, as if the music just poured out of them, and watching them was trance-like. Maybe it was the heat. I was already felt loopy but after their set felt, like a hit and run victim. In an awesome way. I left an instant, massive convert.

Disappears already had their second album, Guider, in the can at that point, which expanded their sonic palette greatly, especially the 16-minute “Revisiting,” which took up the entirety of Side 2. But in between making it and its release date (January 2011) Gibson decided to devote his time to his other band, The Fruit Bats. But Disappears pulled a coup, recruiting Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley as their new drummer. (Little did we know Shelley would end up have so much free time on his hands.)

The band played Union Pool again the week of the album’s release, one of their first with Shelley. A good show, technically, yet something was off. Shelley is clearly no slouch, but was at that point still a bit of a fill-in. A band that relied so heavily on chemistry, this new Disappears hadn’t found their groove yet.

The band next played New York in July, having spent the previous six months touring and writing. Their set was almost entirely new material which clearly reflected Shelley’s influence behind the kit. The chassis was still Disappears, but now with an engine that had more speeds than full-on. It was the best I’d seen them. Straight off that summer tour, the band went and recorded the new songs at Sonic Youth’s Echo Canyon West studio in New Jersey.

The result is Pre Language, out this week, easily Disappears’ best record yet. Less Stooges this time, with more post-punk influences (Wire and the Fall in particular) allowed to bubble up. There’s texture and space in songs like “Hibernation Sickness” and the snaky “All Gone White.” Disappears can still rock—see the title-track, one of the best on the album—but no longer feel a need to hit us over the head with it. Where Lux and Guider attempted to capture their live show on tap, Pre Language works on its own terms.

But dear lord, donít miss them live. They play Glasslands on April 19.

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