Deerhunter – ‘Monomania’

Bradford Cox continues to defecate all over the mundane

“I am a terrorist,” said Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox in a recent interview in response to a question about one of his band’s recent live shows. “As a homosexual, my job is to simply sodomise mediocrity.”

You see, Deerhunter don’t deal in the mundane, in the constraints of genre, in the banality of space, time and etiquette. They’ve been defecating all over it for almost 12 years now. Veering seamlessly from the punk clatter of their debut album ‘Turn It Up Faggot’ to the post-rock-infused 2007 breakout album ‘Cryptograms’, its Can-meets-Fugazi follow-up ‘Microcastle’ and the hazy pop of 2010’s ‘Halcyon Digest’, they’ve shape-shifted their way to where we are now: ‘Monomania’.

The jagged guitars and distorted growl of opening tracks ‘Neon Junkyard’ and ‘Leather Jacket II’ nod to the aggression of their earlier recordings, but the pace soon shifts to the ambient soundscapes of ‘The Missing’ – a natural follow-up to their last album. That’s not to say ‘Monomania’ is a regurgitation of old Deerhunter. From the hushed acoustic strum of ‘Nightbike’ to the Woody Guthrie on-the-road blues of ‘Pensacola’ and ‘Dream Captain’ (the latter features the line “I’m a poor boy from a poor family“, which may or may not be pinched from Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’), the range of Cox’s musical scope is laid bare.

A thread that runs through all Deerhunter’s albums is the introspection of their lyrics. Even the title, ‘Monomania’, refers to a pathological obsession with one thing. And while they’re is no stranger to gut-spilling, it feels as poignant as ever on this record. “Tip me all apart, so I can see the pieces“, guitarist and instrumentalist Lockett Pundt coos on ‘The Missing’, his only track on this LP coos on ‘The Missing’. Then there’s the spitting vocal of album closer ‘Punk (La Vie Antérieure)’, which harks back to Cox’s lost days of youth, searching for an identity, be it punk, queer or the simple frustration of trying to “find some release“.

But outside his own head, there’s also an acknowledgement of Cox’s role in the world as artist and musician. “I’ve been looking for some harmonies, some words to sing that could really bring the lonely-hearted some company“, he confesses on the jangly indie-pop of ‘Sleepwalking’: evidence that his desire to defecate on all things boring isn’t just a self-indulgent art project, but a means to connect with an ever-growing audience. And that’s always been Deerhunter’s best trick. For all their experimental tangents, they’ve always been able to write a decent hook. So maybe Bradford Cox’s monomania is just that – an ongoing obsession to carve Deerhunter’s future place as one of the great American rock’n’roll bands. Long may it continue.

Jenny Stevens