I was noticing some recurring threads throughout my top-20 list, in anticipation of future reviews. One thing I liked this year seems to be energetic, one-dimensional rock bands, who perhaps have some hidden, deeper dimensions. Disappears is one of these bands.
But I should be upfront here: Guider is not a particularly popular record. A few sites I looked at had it rated pretty poor (though some do love it). And even I, with the album sitting strong at #17 on my list here, cannot imagine recommending Disappears to a whole lot of people. Whether those hidden dimensions reveal themselves probably depends a lot on each individual listener, and perhaps with a band like this, they can easily stay hidden.
First of all, the 30-minute album contains only five short songs, and a fifteen-minute one. The singer blurts or groans out near-indecipherable vocals, like they were an afterthought. The guitar tones never seem to change from song to song. Instead of solos, the guitarist just strangles chords for atmosphere. And the whole thing has a distant, muffled feel, like you’re listening to a garage band, but with the garage door closed in front of you. These are not criticisms. Guider is not as difficult as that sounds, but to show how Disappears totally deconstruct the normal rock music angles.
Further, and perhaps most of all, the relentless driving beat of every track, provided by their new drummer, Steve Shelley (from Sonic Youth) impresses me.* That high-tempo mechanical repetition, borrowed from krautrock, is one of my favorite things. I find it totally addicting! “Halo” has one of the more intense rhythm sections, and it is a good example here. No matter what kind of stuff is going on above it, that backbone is momentous.
But most of all, the album refuses to stray. Often I prefer an album that wanders and explores a bit, but Disappears stick close to their own method for the entire time. This is the right choice for a band like this; one misplaced ballad, rude synthesizer sound, or something out-of-place like that would probably ruin everything. Instead, little short bursts of songs keep showing you the template, repeating it, over and over (just like the krautrock beat, come to think of it). And so by the time Guider arrives at the 15-minute “Revisiting,” you know what to expect. Those hidden dimensions, the intense grooves and deconstructed rock and roll, have shown themselves, completely drawing me in, allowing “Revisiting” to be the perfect epic closer. And by the time “Revisiting” ends, you’re ready to go again.
*UPDATE A FEW DAYS LATER: I have since read that Shelley is not on this album, though he is in the band and will be on their upcoming 3rd album. The drumming here is still bad-ass.
Spotify playlist here!