Album Review: Deerhunter-Monomania

I’ve been sitting with this new Deerhunter record for well over a month now.  I thought like all of their past records there were layers that took time to reveal and that I shouldn’t jump the gun on some opinionated 500 word piece on it.  Much like the owl trying to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop, I was trying to figure out how many licks it took to get to the center of Deerhunter’s Monomania.  Well after a month of listening, re-listening, and re-listening I finally figured it out.  You see, what you hear is what you get.  There’s no hidden walkways within the walls of this record.  It’s not a maze of sound you work your way through.  This is the least fussed-over record of Bradford Cox‘s musical career.  He’s fussed plenty since he began putting music out with Moses Archuleta and Locket Pundt back in 2004.  But not here.  There’s no ambient noise tracks like on Cryptograms.  There’ no gothic post punk like there was on Microcastle.  And certainly no vacuum-sealed clarity like there was on Halcyon Digest.  No, this time it seems Bradford Cox said the hell with it and went into the studio and burned through twelve blistering garage rock tracks in just under 45 minutes.  It’s a hell of an album, and one of the best out and out rock records this year.

“Neon Junkyard” is a hazy rocker that sees Cox delighting in his usual wordplay all the while swimming in a sea of analog hiss and thedeerhunter two rusty buzz of corroded acoustic strings.  “Finding the fluorescence in the junk/By night illuminates the day/Finding ancient language in the blood/Fading a little more each day”, these are the lyrics of a guy that loves stringing words together, as much as he loves fussing over the sonics of a tune. “Leather Jacket II” is  big old middle finger to anyone that thinks real rock n’ roll is on any radio dial.  Big, brash, noisy, and eardrum shattering noise. Sonic buggery of the highest order. “Pensacola” is a rockabilly tale of debauchery and new beginnings that lead to old habits.  “I could be your boyfriend or I could be your shame” Cox sings over a punk-ish country stomp that gives new meaning to the term “outlaw country”.  Cox has said Hank Williams was an influence on him and the songs on this record and it shows in this excellent track. “Dream Captain”, “Blue Agent” and the title track are Deerhunter in full-on rock form.  “Monomania” in particular is five minutes of Stooges glory done up like a bloody smile with a barb wire bow. Pure f**k you beauty.

As much as I love it when Cox and his Deerhunter cohorts turn up the amps and kick some s**t around I love his pop finesse even more.  Bradford Cox and Lockett Pundt are two of the best songwriters we have nowadays and their fractured pop beauty shines through on the stunning “T.H.M”, “Sleepwalking”, and one of the best songs of 2013 the blissful “Back To The Middle”.  These are future classics.  “Back To The Middle” is a song idiots like me will be yapping about in 20 years, pointing to it and saying “You need more proof than this song?  Really?”  But I digress.

I’ve exceeded my 500 word limit.  This is what Marquee Moon would’ve sounded like had Verlaine pulled the stick out of his a** and slit his guitar amp’s speaker with a switchblade.  This is the gold you find buried in the grime.  Back alley transgressions and bloodied run-ins on the lower east side, all done up the way rock n’ roll should be done:  bruised, beat up, and battered.

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