Like most animals, us humans are genetically programmed to fear death. Death means no more gene-spreading. Death means no more nurturing your offspring. However (every cloud) death means you will never have to involuntarily listen to Radio One again. Death means you’ll never have another hangover. Sure the doctors couldn’t save you, but at least you don’t have to talk to that thick receptionist of theirs anymore; the one who can’t reach for your prescription because her nail varnish isn’t dry yet. There are plenty of records whose protagonists seem to long to die (Joy Division’s ‘Closer’, The Czars’ ‘Before… But Longer’) but only Deerhunter seem to be thinking about death in an opportunistic, adventurous sense. Here, on their first EP (recorded while their album ‘Cryptograms’ was being mixed), Bradford Cox’s imagery of decaying flesh, missing children and the pursuit of hard drugs are surrounded with hypnotic, dream-like riffs and swirls. The opening chimes of the title track seem permanently perched on a pregnant pause, as if the music is readying itself to dive into something. Eventually it does and you’re engulfed by a storm of rushing blurs while Cox’s voice sing-songs “People never really know” like a poltergeist. The haunted wheezes and tea-spoon clicks on ‘Dr. Glass’ back a song that beautifully reflects our powerless reaction to human tragedies. ‘Like New’ is the EP’s one moment of bewildered elation, yet even it sounds apprehensive and cautious. Cox himself has stated that ‘Like New’ is about waking up from a long period of depression and seeing everything as unfamiliar as it is comforting. The pounding finale ‘Wash Off’ is about Cox’s experience with a cheap hallucinogen. The man who sold it to him said that Cox wasn’t “open minded enough” for it to affect him. Even so, if I ever take a hallucinogen, I wouldn’t mind it sounding like ‘Wash Off’; driven and excited but still with the air of taking a bold step into the unknown. The record gives way to a final swirling eddy of guitars and drums before gracefully falling apart quickly and quietly.
EPs are often afterthoughts; an “oh by the way” after the previous album’s full stop, but ‘Fluorescent Grey’ isn’t only a significant progression, it’s nothing short of miraculous. It explores our fear of mortality, the unknown and suffering, but with an over-riding air of curiosity and confusion rather than dread and despair. A beautiful and unearthly meditation on impermanence.