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Lux Michael Dix , April 30th, 2010 10:37

It's not often that Kranky gets excited enough about a straight-up rock band to agree to put out their album, but there is no denying the fact that Disappears fit that bill. Sure, there is a stripped-back aesthetic which you could call "minimalism" and fondness for repetition that could easily be described as "krautrock", two terms that would set the bat-senses tingling in that label's offices, but in essence the Chicago outfit are punk rock'n'rollers at heart.

Disappears are a quartet led by ex-90 Day Man and current Pony Brian Case, and have already earned themselves support slots with bands as diverse as Tortoise and the Jesus Lizard. Their Myspace page lists the band's influences as "reverb, delay, drums, heavy, tremolo, feedback, guitars, repetition", and all of these elements are there in spades, resulting in a heavy psychedelic stomp that joins the dots between the chugging rhythms of Neu!, the gauzey garage of Spacemen 3 or the Jesus And Mary Chain, and the throbbing drones of Suicide. They also describe themselves as "CCR via Minor Threat", a jokey claim perhaps, but it takes a lot of hard work to make such tight, focused playing sound so loose and Disappears pull it off with ease.

The album kicks off with the one-two punch of 'Gone Completely' and 'Magics', which both rumble along on a mid-tempo motorik groove. From the off, Case sets the tone for the next half hour, juxtaposing bitter, accusatory lyrics like "Do you ever think about/ what if we had never met?" against blissful guitar noise. Lyrically, this air of doomy hostility hangs over the majority of the album. On the title track, Case challenges the subject (an ex-lover? Current lover?) with "Do you think anyone/ is gonna love you now"; on the closing 'No Other', he sits resignedly waiting for "the end… to watch it all fall apart", leaving us unsure as to whether it's the end of a relationship, life, or the world itself. On 'Little Ghost', even the spectral protagonist cannot rest in peace, with Case insincerely sneering "I hope you're happy/ in this house now". Case is no Henry Rollins, however, and his Iggy-meets-Mark E. Smith holler lends these lines an air of detached disdain rather than genuine aggression.

Musically, too, the album somehow manages to sound a lot less harsh than its reference points would suggest. The harder, faster tracks like 'Pearly Gates' and 'New Cross' rattle along at a breakneck pace reminiscent of 80s hardcore without evoking the urge to headbutt a brick wall; the rhythmic pulse and twanging surf guitar of 'Not Nothing' is a close cousin of fellow punk survivors Obits; and 'No Other' sits somewhere between the Velvet Underground's 'Pale Blue Eyes' and 'Some Kinda Love'. Elsewhere, when they lock into a groove and jam out, those Creedence claims start to make even more sense. But whereas a band like label-mates Deerhunter can leave the listener feeling slighty motion sick, Disappears evoke a slightly softer, warmer kind of fuzzy feeling. Sure, there are a few jagged edges, but it's as groovy as it is heavy, with hooks to spare, making for one of the most enjoyable albums of the year so far.