Music Reviews
A Thing Called Divine Fits

Divine Fits A Thing Called Divine Fits

(Merge) Rating - 8/10

If there’s something most Caucasian indie rock moguls have in common, it’s that they sure like the Wipers. The Portland, Oregon underground heroes were of the first bands in the post-Ramones era to drape the primitive punk sound with careening guitar textures that were vividly expressive, if almost accessible. They’ve influenced some of the bands we’ve come to venerate as essential, and have wafted in modern rock history with hardly any honorific mention except being right on top of the list of bands that are safe to namedrop for achievement points. They epitomize the true essence of snarling indie rock, a common manifesto on making something familiar sound different and meaningful.

To find out that Dan Boeckner  (of Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs fame) and Britt Daniel (of Spoon) had that eureka moment of forming a band after discovering their mutual admiration for the Wipers makes divine sense. Their cover of the song Doom Town, which they regularly play at gigs, is thrust forward with a closed fist raised up high, pleading for the body to break into thick droplets of sweat. Except for the success factor, they’ve approached the bands they work with a heady balance of sonic urgency and melodic subtlety. To name themselves Divine Fits almost comes off as so sweetly conceited – is it a play on words on how they’re supreme rock deities, or are we divinely blessed by the mutual merge of two titans released together into the same arena?

Besides them being labelmates, perhaps the most common denominator between Daniel and Boeckner - besides belonging to two of the most celebrated college rock bands of the past decade - is that they both share a common bond in how they set to achieve sharp, sparse songwriting with a hefty dose of bounce. My Love is Real opens with a ritzy keyboard line and processed handclaps, with Boeckner’s panicky warble warming up the song’s stomping synth groove. It instantly suggests a compromise for Daniel, who will leisurely fade in a synth hook when needed instead of building an entire song around it. But once Flaggin a Ride follows with a thick bass line and a recurring, compressed drum thump then all bets are off, with Daniel’s soulful, sinewy vocals coaxing with the constant chugga-chugga of a delayed guitar giving it an increasing sense of exigency.

Once A Thing Called Divine Fits shuffles from one singer after the next, track-by-track, it begins to display a balancing act of democracy between two gifted egos. They’re both committed to redrafting past songs from their respective discographies together – it’s no mere coincidence that The Salton Sea re-iterates the plucky piano of The Ghost of You Lingers with a synthetic sheen a la Boeckner that’s about to burst with a gaseous flame, whereas the stripped-down acoustic rendition of Civilian Stripes takes a cue from Daniel in curtailing what could’ve been a possibly huge anthem except that it still has that same impassioned delivery reminiscent of Springsteen, once again looking up to his compositional hero. Having both of them fetch ideas from another to improve their own technique may address the malady that plagues all supergroups, but that’s not exactly it in the case of Divine Fits. Unlike Spencer Krug, Boeckner does remain faithful to a current project once he’s fully engaged to it, and though Daniel is beginning to branch out into other projects, he was staunchly devoted to Spoon for fifteen years.

Despite the obvious logistical convenience that made possible the merge of Boeckner and Daniel, A Thing Called Divine Fits makes a strong case for established musicians who randomly feel an urge to start a band. But we’re obviously not in the presence of a crowd-pleasing, play-all-the-hits Dukes of September extravaganza. Instead, Divine Fits are more like a twin-dragon of mythological proportions – two sound manipulators known for their scattered, offbeat ideas with a similar work ethic coming together to execute their vision and taking it to the nth degree. And when they’re at their element the results can be, as young William Miller said it best, incendiary – there’s no way that the bright-eyed vigor of new wave rocker Baby Get Worse could’ve been conceived had they been in their own nest. It’s hard to tell if this will be a one-off project, but they definitely made it count.