Review: Deerhunter – Monomania

The cover slip to Deerhunter’s new album helpfully indicates ‘File Under: Nocturnal Garage’; a hitherto unheard of sub-genre but one which sums up this strange but rather wonderful band very well. Back in 2010, the Georgia-based act crafted the outstanding ‘Halcyon Digest’; giving birth to a new batch of dreamy garage-punk artists as a result.

Deerhunter Album Cover

If the last album was remarkable for its unexpected moments of beauty, the beginning to ‘Monomania’ is unquestionably ugly, evidenced by the guttural outpourings of frontman Bradford Cox for ‘Neon Junkyard’ and ‘Leather Jacket’. It’s an abrasive start which will deter the less patient listeners looking for a sign of melody. However, things get a whole lot better from then as Deerhunter hit a reach seam of form without losing their natural murkiness. ‘The Missing’ takes the rumbling menace of the first two tracks but aligns it into a more insidious whole, with Cox’s murmurings now perfectly co-ordinated with his bandmates. ‘Pensacola’ and ‘Dream Captain’ encapsulates the garage-punk sound which Deerhunter do so well; both rough and ready tracks but – for all their apparent awkwardness – they’re also extremely catchy.

For the excellent ‘Blue Agent’, the underdog nature of the song makes it a modern day equivalent of Magazine’s post-punk classic ‘A Song From Under The Floorboards’. For all those who find Deerhunter’s too unsubtle, direct them to ‘T.H.M.’; a marvellously keyboard-led slice of warped pop music whilst on ‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘Back To The Middle’, the guitar work of Lockett Pundt and Frankie Broyles truly shines through; rivalling the talents of Television’s Tom Verlaine. It’s somewhat inevitable that the quality at this point dips slightly, with the title track coming across as uncharacteristically self-indulgent chaos but by that time their brilliance has already been proved and they stir themselves again for the starkly-named and perfectly-judged finale ‘Punk’.

It’s easy to imagine Deerhunter recording their songs in a dark basement room, riddled with disease but their music is infectious in all the right ways and what we have here is a wonderful collection of original, seedy pop songs. File Under: Nocturnal Garage, maybe, but file alongside other great mavericks like Magazine, Babybird and Dawn Of The Replicants too.

Web Sites:
Deerhunter Official Site
Youtube Video of Deerhunter’s ‘Back To The Middle’

Further Listening:
Dawn Of The Replicants, Magazine, Babybird, Television

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