Desperately Imagining Someplace Quiet
Looking past Weezer’s polychromatic spectrum of dumpster fires, self-titled records are typically the ground zero for a band’s sound—either the fledgling magic against which they’ll be forever judged or a late-in-the-game reorientation to something new. I’m thinking of the first records from Foo Fighters, Garbage, and Sleater-Kinney; I’m thinking of Wilco’s seventh album, the fifth ones from Blur and blink-182. Disq, on the other hand, use their self-titled second record—a retroactive acronym that could just as easily have been Different Iterations of Sonic Quirkiness—as an opportunity to explore multiple versions of their sound. Desperately is not the sound of a band searching for their voice or reinventing their wheels; rather, it’s the sound of a band that can dexterously sport different costumes without losing their heart, or their head.
As its title suggests, DISQ is an exercise in combating modern calamity. It’s also proof that there’s no one way to do so. On “If Only,” the Wisconsin group let life roll off their backs, like ducks bobbing around a pond in a sleepy suburban hamlet, all Americana strums and lovelorn croaks. “The Hardest Part” and “Tightrope,” conversely, meet miserable modernity with aggression, as icy, darting guitars evoke the angsty gloom of Jawbreaker’s Dear You and Texas Is the Reason, obscuring Logan Severson’s existential pessimism (“Every choice you made, only hiding a future mistake / Won’t be long until you hit the ground”). He’s one of four lead vocalists to feature across the album, and he hands the reins over to founding member Raina Bock for “Cujo Kiddies.”
This song—the album’s lead single, de facto title track, and high-water mark—is her baby. It’s a groovy gear shift, a head-bobbing bohemian rhapsody for the malcontented, alternative underworld, with multiple sections somehow grazing past 70 years of left-of-the-dial rock: Can’s motorik drumming, Talking Heads’ rolling bass, proto-grunge slacker riffs—all in under four minutes. It’s also the first real moment of capital-F Fun on the album—another way to approach life’s malevolence, with a “fuck art, let’s dance” stance. The lyrics are a playful, nimble denigration of hetero-capitalist nonsense: “How am I meant to be still / Everything is such a deal,” Bock smiles, sounding like a more easygoing Justine Frischmann or a less plaintive Adrianne Lenker. “I finally hooked up with the metal machine / I’m finding comfort in the metal machine.”
Besides Bock’s and Severson’s contributions, Disq has three other full-time members—co-founder and guitarist Isaac DeBroux-Slone, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Shannon Connor, and drummer Stu Manley—each with unique, overlapping music tastes; each bringing their stories and skills (and each with their own Spotify playlist). If there is a thesis at the heart of Desperately, perhaps it’s one of compromise, collaboration, and coexistence—sharing your world because you don’t have a choice, but also because, as Disq demonstrates here, that’s when your desperate imaginings become didactic inventions.