Compared to many American bands, Deeper have always been much more closely aligned with traditional (British) post-punk rather than the 2000s revivalists like The Strokes or Interpol (who often took the aesthetics rather than the sound as a starting point). Their previous pair of albums were fully of angular guitars and sharp, barking vocals that recalled Ian Curtis or a grumpy David Byrne – it was post-punk 101, even if that marker is now about as nebulous as “indie”.
On Careful! they’ve begun to spread their wings a little, adding a good chunk of electronics into the mix, as well as some darkwave and art-pop. The influences still clearly hail from 1975-85, but there’s a wider breadth of sound here that manages to include plenty of hooks and space, while maintaining the intensity that could become the band’s calling card.
Build a Bridge is jangly and jerky from the off, but the prominent synth line is immediately noticeable as a new idea that will pop up throughout the album, as on Tele or Everynight. Glare polishes the serrated edge off the guitars completely and Shiraz Bhatti’s drums are crisper than ever – there’s been an upgrade in the studio somewhere across the past five years.
However, that isn’t to say the band have lost their sense of adventure; the reverb around the vocals on Tele give an atmospheric, ghostly effect, while Bite and Sub have a motorik chug that fits perfectly. The greatest influence appears to be Bowie’s Berlin era and his early ’80s pomp, as Nic Gohl has added a sense of melodrama to his yearning, crooning vocals (and there are songs called Pressure and Fame) and the hooks now seem built around danceability, whereas that felt like a happy by-product on 2020’s Auto-Pain.
Despite the slight experimental forays they mostly manage to make it work – and they can still do snappy, soundbite-punk as they show on Airplane Air – but it’s good to see them move out of their comfort zone. The three interludes don’t add much and Pressure is a repetitive closer, but even when the songs start to blend a little there’s such a solid foundation and understanding between the band that it’s always interesting.
For a group that have always peddled anxiety and darkness, Careful! is comparatively serene, easygoing and even fun. In this sense the title works as both an imperative and an adjective; Deeper might still be angst-filled eccentrics but, through a little reflection, they’re learning to channel that mania beautifully.