Sailing on a sea of scuzz and fuzz, Atlanta, Georgia’s Deerhunter today release their sixth album: “Monomania“, recorded at Rare Book Studio in Brooklyn, New York and produced by (previous collaborator) Nicholas Vernhes and leader Bradford Cox
Cox and co. are clearly possessed of something – maverick spirit is not in question, that’s always there. Even on the straighter, more familiar-sounding numbers the sense of dirt and danger is not far off. As you’re listening you feel a decision was made somewhere that this was a record where gloves would come off, and noise would be given a freer rein. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the distortion and effects applied across the board, particularly to Cox’s voice.
Personally I think Deerhunter might have overdone the treatment on this LP. Like the friend who arrives at a wedding a deep shade of tangerine. You can understand the desire to seem hale and hearty, but the colour they’ve turned themselves isn’t natural, it came from a machine or a tin, and it’s rubbing off on their clothes. Take “T.H.M.” on which I love the little seventies piano and shuffly-drums interlude but there is no excuse for the addition of the hyperventilating man at the end of it. Was that supposed to be someone deep in the throes of self-obsessed self-love ? The title track is probably the worst of the bunch – Monomania ? Maybe. One-trick-mind seems more like it. It’s an alienating dust-devil of crashing cymbals and distorted vocals that collapses into a mess of itself and feedback. I can imagine that I might find that mess appealing, if I had been listening to something compelling beforehand, but I wasn’t.
One of the main problems is that I can’t take this attempt at rawk seriously. For all the noise there is in here it really sounds a little hollow, like someone forgot the sex and the groove. There’s a lot of clatter in the drums but not a lot of irresistible rhythm or satisfying thump – whatever should be at the core of this, hiding behind all the sonic embellishments, the reality is, sadly, a bit insipid. There’s a lot of screech and scratch in the guitars but not a lot of melody or drive to write home about.
What this leaves me with are only a couple of tunes to take away; I don’t expect to come back to this as an album. The grime-and-grease of “Neon Junkyard” has a strong enough tune to carry the overall approach off and “Dream Captain” features the only refrain I enjoyed, nodding to Queen as it rasps away. Those two can stick around, maybe we can spend some time together, but they can leave their friends outside.
You can listen to it here, at lovely NPR: