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Reviewed: Deerhunter – Monomania

Monomania_album_cover_2013

Deerhunter – Monomania (2013 – 4AD)

by Caleb Nichols

In an earlier era, Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox would have been an iconic rock and roll star. If Cox had been producing the type of glitter-infused punk anthems he’s currently crafting in the 1970s or 80s, he would have been the type of rock-star kids would have to lie to their parents about; a dangerous weirdo whose music might contain subliminal messages instructing American teens to take acid and have pre-marital sex. Congressional hearings would’ve be convened; Tipper Gore would’ve DEMANDED appropriate labeling.

Monomania, Deerhunter’s latest LP for 4AD is a substantial glam-rock opus that could only exist in this limbo between two centuries. Crunchy, pop gems dusted with space-trash satellite crackles and littered with carefully blown-out drum and vocal sounds combine to form the perfect backdrop over which Cox practically bursts with the outcast confidence of a young Mick Jagger or a purp-infused Weezy.

Opener “Neon Junkyard” has real Bowie swagger to it, while “Leather Jacket II” moves more deeply into shades of 90s brit-pop – a mix of the noisy art-pop of 13-era Blur and the cocksure peacock strut of Pulp.

“The Missing” mellows things out a bit, exchanging the noise for a delicate melody hovering over a gently rolling mid-tempo rock ballad, which, in traditional Deerhunter style, builds into something larger and more satisfying with each passing measure.

Monomania nearly falls apart at the seams at moments. Frontman Bradford Cox positively drips with confidence on nearly every track, so much so that it almost serves to give the record a sense of desperation that threatens sonic implosion. Here, Deerhunter is on the verge of musical trainwreck, in a good way, but in a such a way that it’s impossible not to rubberneck. Will Cox completely lose it on this one? Will his personality disintegrate completely? What will it sound like when it does?

We never find out. Monomania is the sort of record that takes the listener right to the edge, holds them as far out over it as possible, but never actually lets us fall into the abyss. From the proto-punk delirium of “THM” to the dangerously intimate confessional “Nitebike,” Deerhunter repeatedly takes us there and back again, always allowing us to keep one foot on the cliff.

For fans of David Bowie, Blur, Jay Reatard

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