Deerhunter – Monomania album review

Bradford Cox is an interesting character. Most recently I encountered his singular rock and roll persona on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” when Deerhunter stopped by to play the title track from their most recent album, Monomania. Previously Cox has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t “like the idea of going on stage in jeans and a t-shirt,” and the Fallon appearance was definitely in line with this sentiment. The band itself (consisting of longtime collaborators Lockett Pundt and Moses Archuleta, and newcomers Josh Mckay and Frankie Broyles) was dressed smartly, in button up print shirts, but it was Cox, as usual, that was the most visually arresting. Wearing an obviously fake black wig, and a strange bloody bandage covering his hand, Cox reached for the ceiling of the studio, his voice cracking with the strain of bellowing the words to “Monomania.” Even before the song has concluded he leaves the stage amid a screaming wall of distortion, and the camera follows him down the NBC hallway to the elevator. Once there he proceeds to press the button for his floor, and leans against the wall to wait.

For a lover of all things noise and indie rock, it is a compelling image. Bradford Cox does nothing by chance, as evidenced by his onstage garb and previously painstaking album arrangements. Yet, with Deerhunter’s newest release, previously mentioned as being titled Monomania, he seems to be more interested in pure volume and abandon, rather than the carefully controlled sonic landscapes of Halcyon Digest or Microcastle. The album stands as a cohesive whole, and the new image of Deerhunter as a leathered and grimy garage band holds true throughout.

The record begins with “Neon Junkyard,” a song that takes the typical components of the band’s sound and adds in super distorted vocals and guitar. It is instantly recognizable as a Deerhunter song, but manages to distance itself from past work with the addition of unadulterated noise. Monomania’s second song, “Leather Jacket II,” stays in this same arena of sound before transitioning into the more melodic third track, “The Missing.” All of these songs are catchy in their own respect, but are mere appetizers before the main course provided by “Pensacola,” “Back to the Middle,” and “Monomania.” These three tracks provide are the most easily accessible on the record, a most definitely reward repeat listening. The treble- turned- all- the-way- up lead guitar on “Pensacola” is particularly catchy, “Back to the Middle” features a prominent bass line from recent band addition Mckay, and “Monomania” is a crushing declaration of Deerhunter’s new direction. Bradford Cox wants rock, he wants punk, he wants epic guitar squall to envelope the listener, and this mission is accomplished in the unending repetition of the album title.

Though some have pegged Monomania as one of the lesser Deerhunter releases, it is the opinion of this author that there is true staying power contained in the raw compositions contained within. It may not be the most easy entry point for new listeners, (folks looking to get into Deerhunter should check out their previous release, Halcyon Digest) but for fans of the band it is an orgy of sound and garage rock fury. Enjoy.

By Matt Duddy

Matt is an English major who now teaches about fish at an aquarium. His interests include music, running, and hanging out with hermit crabs. He contributes from somewhere in the Boston area.

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