Deerhunter / Monomania / Out via 4AD on May 7th, 2013
Like any well-oiled pop machine, Atlanta’s avant-garage outfit Deerhunter knows when to slowly gas the psych propellers into an ambient blissout, and bust out pedal-to-the-metal spurts of pure punk rock as soon as the lighters get raised. The band’s fifth studio album Monomania dropped May 7th via 4AD, this time forgoing the astral plane explorations of their sonically anarchic back catalog, and opting instead for a more concise pop record that snaps and crackles in equal measure. The interstellar improv and dream pop sensibility that once resonated at galactic proportions in earlier releases is tighter than ever, as though transmissions between ground control and the International Space Station achieved a crystal-clear moment of recognition, to produce a new release that is surprisingly grounded.
Amidst the bray of garage-punk snarls and slow burning shoegaze longplayers of recent days, it’s hard to tell if and when the genetics of alt rock will see the promise of mutation. In a culture-jamming return to form, frontman Bradford Cox told Rolling Stone that he and guitarist Lockett Pundt listened to only The Ramones and Ricky Nelson prior to making the album, and also cited Pierre Schaeffer, Steve Reich, and Bo Diddley as major influences. In fact, Cox referred to Diddley as “the god of this record,” but added, “I don’t think there’s a single Bo Diddley beat on the album.” Regardless of its precise coordinates, Monomania is a refreshingly relaxed moment amidst the fluorescent junk-pop riffs and celestial loops that combine to form Deerhunter’s weird era of psych-rock ephemera.
Feedback freakouts “Neon Junkyard” and “Leather Jacket II” open the band’s sixth studio album with freshly sharpened bite, pedaling onward without a moment’s fiery respite. Third track “The Missing” casts a synth-soaked ray of sunshine into the shimmering sea of kraut grooves that comprised Pundt’s 2012 release Spooky Action at a Distance, drifting into the hustle and creak of “Pensacola” and “Dream Captain”, freak folk Americana jams sporting a looser, garagey feel that evokes the DIY tape hiss of psych-rock contemporaries Woods. Saloon waltz “T.H.M.”, the meandering strings of “Sleepwalking”, and tightly capped jam “Back in the Middle” tread familiar ground in the newgaze post-explorations of Deerhunter’s back catalog. Five-minute title drone “Monomania” trickles into the cavernous cassette echo of “Nikebike”, proceeding through dirge to draw open the ultraviolet shades of “Punk (La Vie Antérieure)” for a final wave as the sun sets over a decidedly “avant-garde rock & roll record”, according to vocalist Bradford Cox in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. If their 2010 release Halcyon Digest didn’t hammer your tympanic threshold into metronomic submission, let the message ring forevermore that while indie festival darlings are only beginning to touch on the apache anthems and art-rock tinkering of the early 2000’s, Deerhunter continues make giant leaps forward, without all the white noise to mute their sonic footprint.