Review Summary: You win some, you lose some.
Looking through the discography of Mr. Joel Zimmerman (AKA Deadmau5), there’s one clear pattern: increasing variety. First, the ten-variations-on-one-beat flow of Random Album Title. Then more focus on separate songs, but still a very narrow range of sound and emotion on For Lack of a Better Name. Next, the every-type-of-dance-song 4 x 4 = 12. And now…this.
Smooth lounge jazz, driving repetitive rap, chilled out R & B, and a sugar-chocked Owl City-style pop song. If you’re a Deadmau5 veteran, you’ll probably finish the album straddling two different super-deep emotions: WTF and OMG.
I’m going to say it straight up: >album title goes here< is not a great album. It is barely a good album. It’s too scattershot to succeed as a whole, and some songs do not sit well next to their neighbors. The album’s lowest moments are downright depressing. Opener Superliminal hits the ground running despite running on nearly the exact same concepts as previous opener FML- snare rolls and time signature changes. But then its momentum dies when the builds fail to pay off in any satisfying way. The second track, Channel 42, sits in a no-man’s land between build and drop and misses the highs and lows we’ve come to expect from Deadmau5 entirely. Not the best start to an album. Personally, having two highly mediocre tracks head an album is enough to throw me into a headphone-throwing rage.
October uses scratched-CD sound effects to spice things up but in the end, all it makes the listener wish for is an unscratched copy of the unremarkable jam. The lounge track, Sleepless, features painfully cheesy robo-vocals and is overall a boring, clumsy attempt to enter the genre. But the moment that takes the cake is the jaw-droppingly ugly transition from the brag-rap, redundant Failbait to the gorgeous closer Telemiscommunications. Imagine a movie with a celebratory strip club scene immediately followed a closing scene featuring the world’s cutest kitten surviving an operation.
I will probably never again try to listen to >album title goes here< as a whole album. There’s too much crap between the gold and both the beginning and end are somewhat painful to get through. However, that’s only one side to the story...
I’m going to say it straight up: >album title goes here< is the most exciting album I’ve listened to this year, because it’s the album that best showcases Deadmau5’s talent and potential (albeit in a very flawed product). Deadmau5 has never been as overtly joyous as he is on The Veldt, or as lovably excitable as on Professional Griefers, or as sprawlingly beautiful as on Telemiscommunications. After hearing the solid (but just solid) Fn Pig which was supposed to be “the next Strobe,” I wasn’t expecting a driving beautiful Deadmau5 masterpiece on this album, but it comes in the form of Closer. And out of leftfield comes an industrial atmospheric masterpiece in Take Care of the Proper Paperwork.
Even where Deadmau5 doesn’t execute quite as well, he manages to succeed in some sense or another. Although Cyprus Hill’s obnoxious brag-rapping and terrible album placement do Failbait no favors, the beat itself is very well-done, with the classic sounds-like-gold Deadmau5 drum kit and a happy medium of bells-and-whistles details. Every song is meticulously well-produced, and no song is truly hard on the ears (the end of October perhaps excepted). The failed experiements on >album title goes here< are still experiments, and it’s enthralling to see how he handles each new genre and idea even when the results are iffy. It’s like seeing a talented, eager kid run through a gamut of new, improvised tricks- sometimes he crashes or ends up doing nothing special, but the courage and drive and passion is so clear in every movement that it’s awesome to behold.
WTF x OMG = 3/5
Deadmau5 has gone in all directions on this one to varying degrees of success. Fans will definitely find a lot to love here, and haters will have plenty to hate. It’s not a great album, but it’s an exciting and varied one. I’m sure glad I listened to it, and if you’ve been saving up to buy your Mau5 head or just like to poke your head around the contemporary electronic music scene, you will be too.