words by maria sledmere
Urban Dictionary defines a Debbie Downer as ‘a person who has mastered the art of self-pity’, whose ‘main objective’ is to ‘absolutely KILL your joy’. You can sense then that at least a healthy dash of irony was involved in Brooklyn-based Debbie Downer’s decision to meld their surnames and adopt this ill-fated moniker. Irony, because let’s face it, do we need another sentimental indie band bringing us down with tales of heartache and apathy? Maybe not, but Debbie Downer’s sound is too alluring to resist.
“I Did It All For You”, first single from upcoming EP, You Know You’re Wrong, is the kind of minimalist dream pop you could imagine sound-tracking a Sophia Coppola film. Its hazy, surf-rock guitars and sixties girl band harmonies evoke a slow-motion sense of drifting along some Californian boulevard, palms swaying against a sky made bubblegum pink by late summer light, someone blowing sweet-smelling vape smoke in your eyes. It’s laid back, sultry and irresistibly nostalgic. Best Coast or Alvvays with the shriller edges smudged out with pastels.
The song is an avowal of commitment on the one hand, and a bittersweet paean to innocent affection lost. After all, “I did it all for you” is in the past tense; “that’s the way it all goes” adds a wistful cynicism that’s emphasised by the last verse, in which an ex is chastised and brought down to size. Debbie Downer quite comfortably conjure a dream world of sugary vocals and bright guitars while also wallowing in the shameless pessimism that shadows our starry-eyed fantasies of love. Like in a Coppola film, the syrupy romance will eventually brush with the strange or sinister. Best enjoyed, let’s admit, post-breakup with a tall glass of something to match the music: strong, cool and sweet.