You can’t get Deeper if you’re standing still. That’s intentional, says the Chicago quartet’s Nic Gohl. “Does it feel good when you’re listening to this song? Does your body want to move with it?” These are the questions he asked himself as he and bandmates Shiraz Bhatti, Drew McBride, and Kevin Fairbairn were writing and recording Careful!, their third record and Sub Pop debut. “I wanted these to be interesting songs, but in a way where a two-year-old would vibe out to it,” Gohl adds. “It’s pop music, basically.”
That “basically” qualifier is working pretty hard, as fans of 2020’s Auto-Pain might suppose. On Careful!, they’re not reimagining their sound so much as testing its limits. If you want to, you can hear echoes of David Bowie’s Low in the snapping rhythm and gray-sky synths of “Tele,” but you can also hear a bit of Auto-Pain in the nailed-in, stippling lines being spit out by Bhatti’s drum programming and McBride’s synthesizer. Fame seems to stumble together and nearly fall apart, the dialed-up noise making the beat feel maniacal and a little invincible, the whole thing a series of short, snipped, autonomous gestures that are by now Deeper’s trademark.
Build a Bridge pushes in the opposite direction, using a prickly guitar line to launch into big, smeary art-pop, its emotional palette clear, well-defined, and easy to latch onto. On Sub, Gohl sings above and below the melody like Ian McCulloch, bellowing and wondering and ruminating and rounding into swaggering confidence that the band rises to meet. It’s festival headliner music that still feels like it was written in a garage. That fraternal interdependence is near the center of Deeper’s music. The musical and lyrical devotion to mutuality makes this restlessly curious, stylistically broad album feels like the most coherent portrait of who Deeper is. Or, as McBride ultimately frames it, “Careful! is about looking out for one another.”
1. Build a Bridge
2. Heat Lamp
6. Pilsen 4th
10. Airplane Air