Review Summary: Dan Deacon, please, never grow up.
In my critical issues in health class, I learned Erik Erikson’s fundamental theory of an average life. In Erikson’s life-stage cycle, there came a point after each age that a person grew up and became one step further towards the end of the cycle (which ends with knowing before you die that you left something behind for others). An example of one of the stages is the important time in life where we must develop cognitively. It is that same time when we must be kids when we are kids, otherwise there can become a possibility of a late-life ‘fix’ for that missing element of childhood. Now meet exhibit A, Dan Deacon. The electronica/dance enthusiast may have skipped this imperative cognitive development step to save it for his career, planned or not. With his latest album, Spiderman of the Rings,
Dan Deacon has created an absurdly unique album that brings out the kid in him.
That secretly sinister laugh of Woody the Woodpecker is a foreground for the record’s mood to begin the album. The marimba-led “Wooody The Woodpecker” (spelled wrong intentionally) is a calm song in comparison to others, but that is until an epic high pitched synthesizer breakdown, that opens up mosh pits nationally, busts through the speakers. Having survived that song, “Okie Dokie” is basically “Wooody The Woodpecker” on speed. It is a lively and energetically spastic song that is coated with a bass tone, which drives the flow of the song. Lyrically, it mentions the bizarre lyrical item of a ‘rattlesnake gun,’ which is not too far out of Deacon’s spectrum of reality.
“The Crystal Cat” and “Wham City” are not only a fabulous back-to-back track attack, but easily the two best songs on the album. The two dance-happy anthems are flawlessly executed. “The Crystal Cat” has an infection bass line that really gets the hips moving, while the beats get the fists pumping like your standard rave party. This is some serious business, especially with the cutely planned high pitched vocal work that is reminiscent of a cat. What is even more serious is the eleven minute, “Wham City,” which is preposterous considering the A.D.D.-like style of music Dan Deacon delivers. “Wham City” is perhaps the ‘biggest’ dance song ever created, which remarkably never loses a beat throughout. Dan Deacon uses his usual synthesizer effects and marimba combo as the melody with the most incredible chorus ever. To sum it up in a nutshell, up past the big glen, there is a castle and inside there is a fountain that flows gold into a huge hand of a bear who has a sick band of goats and cats (among other things) and everyone plays drums and sings about big sharks and sharp swords (among other things). “Wham City” constantly pours out amazing melodies and variations as it progresses keeping the attention of anyone and everyone. Out of the near-twelve minute sing-a-long/dancefest there is one musical break for people to recuperate, and after all, Dan Deacon surely wanted to keep his audience safe from a rare case of dance-oriented rubber-legs.
One of Dan Deacon’s performance mainstays is his green skull. In fact, when someone had stolen the skull, he offered all sorts of rewards and was searching frantically for what could be considered his ‘stage mojo.’ Deacon appropriately credits his skull with “Trippy Green Skull,” a song with contrasting vocals between a baritone voice and high-squeal pitched voice. Similar vocals are apparent in the bass-heavy and lyrically weird, “Snake Mistakes.” Through it all, while the majority of his work is pretty hyper and silly, Deacon shows a softer side. “Pink Batman” and “Big Milk” are calm instrumentals with pleasing melodies. “Big Milk” relies heavily on a xylophone/glockenspiel while “Pink Batman" is a more artificial sound.
Dan Deacon found a way to make something so ridiculous and weird to work, and quite frankly it sounds fantastic. Themes were never drawn out, nor did songs drag too long. Yes, and even though I said that Dan Deacon is a bit childish, his musical prowess is something else, something of a greater and more mature nature. It will be interesting to see what direction Deacon goes from here, whether it continue along the lines of his dance-happy style or a more experimental electronica. Whatever direction Dan Deacon chooses, it will be no surprise that he will have fun with what comes next.