Deerhunter, ‘Monomania’ – Album Review
Would any of us care so much about Deerhunter without the schtick? From day one, Bradford Cox has been an indie-rock provocateur (pushing buttons with his volatile stage presence, giving some of the weirdest interviews in rock history), and his unusual backstory (asexual outcast with Marfan syndrome) is as recognizable as his band’s music. Given all that, it’s easy to overlook Deerhunter’s blemish-free track-record: Their dizzying run from 2007’s ‘Cryptograms’ to 2010’s ‘Halcyon Digest’ rivals that of any modern rock band, “indie” or otherwise.
Leading up to ‘Monomania,’ the band’s first album in three years, Cox’s behavior has only deepened in weirdness. He’s ranted to the press about hating Morrissey, staged a bizarre press conference that had little to do with his music and performed on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show dressed as some kind of glam-rock greaser, with an awkward black wig and bloody finger bandage. With ‘Monomania,’ the “Look at me” stunts have finally threatened to overwhelm the music.
But they don’t. It’s another quite good album from a band probably incapable of making anything else. But after a streak of game-changing U-turns, ‘Monomania’ is a bit of a come-down, a settling into a groove rather than an expansion. Outside of the distorted, eight-track fidelity, there’s nothing particularly “new” here, and that ramshackle, punk-minded quality doesn’t suit their melodic strengths. The aimless title-track, which eventually spirals out into a repetitive no man’s land of noise, is the low point.
But as a single, that track was a bruising misnomer on an overall quirky, dreamy album. ‘The Missing’ is guitarist Lockett Pundt’s sole original, and it’s the album’s gorgeous heartbeat, riding a blissful electric guitar pinwheel and a trippy synth sparkle. ‘THM’ is a drunkenly tuneful nod to yacht-rock; ‘Pensacola’ is lovably goofy “woman ran off with another man”-style blues-rock tune, pitched somewhere between the Black Lips and a shoddy CCR demo.
If ‘Monomania’ isn’t the blistering glam-punk assault we all thought it would be, that’s probably a good thing. It’s also another page out of Cox’s subversive playbook. This isn’t Deerhunter’s best work — in fact, it’s their weakest album in years. But even this band’s scraps are endlessly fascinating, and that’s more than you can say about almost anybody else in indie-rock.