I’m almost afraid to make any comparisons to DTCV; their website accuses other music writers of not being sober when they compared the band’s past work to Sonic Youth and Stereolab. Well, maybe DTCV (pronounced detective, for some reason I’ve yet to figure out,) is on to something. DTCV’s fourth LP, Uptime!, is softer and more ear-pleasing than Sonic Youth, but has too much guitar to be like Stereolab. DTCV is a Joshua Tree, California-based duo consisting of Vivarock (Guylaine Vivarat, a woman born in France who holds an advanced degree in international politics from the Sorbonne) and Fiat Lux (James Greer, a former member of Guided by Voices, who has written two novels and many popular screenplays.) Together, this accomplished pair have created this post-punk album that sounds pretty with plenty of catchy hooks, powerful guitars, and gorgeous vocals.
The thing that makes it hard to come up with comparisons for DTCV is that they’ve got a mix of a lot of things going on. They’re post-punk without the synthesizers, they’ve got a little indie rock while sounding pretty. For an example of the mix (and what might get my sobriety questioned,) I picked up a little Interpol with a surf sound on “Astros,” but the strong female vocals scream Blondie, while the backing vocals doing scales sounded a little B-52s. There’s a ‘60s girl group sound on “Miley Cyrus Wins the Race” and “It’s a Stealer.” The former isn’t actually about Miley Cyrus (unless you want it to be, according to the band,) but it is a beautiful song with lyrics about looking back on youthful transgressions over upbeat guitar. Vivarock’s vocals are bold but seem like she doesn’t even have to try; she’s effortlessly cool, just like I picture a stereotypical French woman.
There is a major difference between the songs sung by Vivarock and those sung by Fiat Lux. Lux sings on three tracks, “Don’t Be Stupid,” “Invitation to a Beheading,” and “California Girls.” Lux’s lyrics are more repetitive and are a little nonsensical (he sings about being serviced by postal ghosts.) “Invitation” repeats “I saw Satan fall like lightning” many times in a surfer accent (bringing to mind the campy nature of the B-52s.) “California Girls” is the exception: the lyrics come from the heart as he sings about a relationship. I actually laughed out loud when Lux sang “I’ll try not to fuck everything up” and a choir of Vivarocks responded with “Don’t fuck everything up.” It’s charming. Still, it’s a departure from the Vivarock-led tracks where her gorgeous vocals command attention over the equally powerful guitars. The duo teams up to sing the extremely repetitive “Radio Drive” together to close out the album. Frankly, the album kind of dies off after the dark “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction.”
Well, I made it through this review completely sober, but typing out DTCV while saying “detective” in my head made me feel pretty drunk (shouldn’t it be DTCTV or DCTV or something? This bothers me.) This is a mostly good album, Vivarock is a fantastic vocalist and the guitar is great. Some of the songs don’t live up to the quality of the others, but it’s worth a listen.