I never was much of a Deerhunter fan in the early going of their career. Truth be told, I didn’t really want to like them because it seemed pretentious indie kids were going overboard on their talent level. Then I listened to “Halycon Digest” and I started to hear the brilliance. “Monomania” was one of the more anticipated albums for me this year, and a few listens in, it hasn’t disappointed.
“Monomania” presents the world with a different kind of Deerhunter. This Deerhunter is raw, bursting with energy even in it’s quiet moments. Lead man Bradford Cox and company have found their inner Stooges, MC5, T. Rex, and Velvet Underground. While some of the songs certainly contain nods to those bands’ sounds, the comparison goes beyond the sound. It’s as if Deerhunter has embraced the seedy side of life on “Monomania”, written songs with attitude that are meant to be played in venues with bathroom stalls with no doors on them, graffiti on the walls, and booze filled dudes in leather jackets smoking cigarettes out of the corners of their mouth. “Monomania” is a veritable soundtrack to 1970’s New York and Detroit.
Let me start with the bad, and strangely enough, it’s the two tracks that are the most raw on the album. While I give Cox some credit for stretching his boundaries, ‘Leather Jacket II’ and title track ‘Monomania’ come off not only experimental, but distracting. And while others may see the genius in Deerhunter’s purposeful freakouts as an announcement “Monomania” is about to get you out of your Deerhunter comfort zone, frankly the songs sound forced and like a 12 year old on acid is playing guitar.
The good is the rest of the album. There are so many gems on “Monomania” I won’t go through them all for fear of turning this review into a book. Standout track ‘Pensacola’ is a driving song, with a raw rockabilly sound that sounds like it was penned by Bob Dylan or Lou Reed. ‘The Missing’ is the only real nod to “Halycon Digest”, but is such a wonderfully done song, you are going to be hitting the play button over and over. ‘Dream Captain’ is a glorious three minute stretch of songwriting. Other highlights include, ‘Back To The Middle’, ‘T.H.M.’, and ‘Sleepwalking’.
If you haven’t become a Deerhunter fan at this point, I do urge you to check them out. Bradford Cox and company are writing some of the best music in the indie rock scene today. And while I found a couple of the tracks difficult to listen, there is some beauty in an artist that manages to challenge himself on each new endeavor. Cox hasn’t reinvented a new style of music, but he has for at least one album reinvented himself.
I already can’t wait to see what they come up with next.