by Reggie Bender
No frills. Chicago’s Dehd return bearing their third record, Water, with the mania of love and heartbreak strapped to their chests. As one of the all stars of Fire Talk Records (whose roster continues to bat 1000), Dehd adapt to the muggy air that comes with capital L “Love,” learning to live both with and without it, and watch it evolve from romantic to platonic. While it’s easy for a breakup album to come off as trite, the trio articulate this universal feeling with a rabid vulnerability that allows their anguish to still be imbued with sweetness and affection.
The record serves as both a funeral and, more appropriately, a baptism, for what comes after exiting a partnership. This is most poignant on the song “Baby,” declaring: “A heart attack waits for me when I dream of days past, with my baby/Happened all so fast, be here with me/I lost your love, my baby/Yeah, I got it back again.” The rebirth of what once was has come back in a different shape. Water reckons with the dichotomy of grieving what has been lost versus learning to be grateful for what has risen from the ashes of a no longer functioning romantic relationship.
Dehd practice a sentiment often preached but rarely implemented--serve the song, and cut out anything extra. Case and point in drummer Eric McGrady, who’s minimal snare and floor tom set-up provide a pulse for bandmates Emily Kempf and Jason Balla to tack on chugging basslines and wiggling guitar parts, respectively. The simplicity in their instrumentation gives balance to their songs, paving the way for standout vocal performances from Kempf on songs such as “On My Side,” “Lucky,” and “Sunbeat,” while Balla’s cool-headed delivery lets you appreciate the lazier, sun-drenched moments of coming to terms with heartache.
While the band isn’t reinventing the wheel, they do have the coolest ride. The absence of excess brings forward a soundtrack to a broken AC summer, windows down, blowing sweat into your hairline. Dehd has something for the believers, the non-believers, and those in between. When fall rolls around, we’ll all curse the stars and cry as we try to hold onto the magic of summer, but with Water to remind us of the simple pleasures, I guess we don’t have to.