Deerhunter
Monomania


4.1
excellent

Review

by Hernan M. Campbell STAFF
May 7th, 2013 | 52 replies | 9,383 views


Release Date: 05/07/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Listening to Monomania is like looking through a scrapbook that reflects on Deerhunter's history, their influences, and even gives hints of where they might go next.

Monomania, as its name implies, is an album that is centered around one sole concept-- stirring things up. The music exhibits a constant fluctuation of moods and sounds here, and yet despite the album's capricious nature, Monomania never loses sight of its thematic plot. This album is a regression to their roots, and by that I'm not necessarily referring solely to Deerhunter's previous work, but the music that influenced their own as well. There's a plethora of musical styles all mingling together within this one album, from the compelling raucous of noise and garage rock, to the catchy hooks of indie pop and the ethereal soundscapes of psychedelia, each genre is broken down, renovated, and then fused together to manifest the ideology of what Deerhunter refers as 'avant-garde rock & roll.'

In songs like "Neon Junkyard", "Leather Jacket II", and "Monomania", we find Deerhunter regressing to the abrasive, 'noise-punk' demeanor of their early days. Though it's only in spirit that these songs share an identical aesthetic to the content in Turn It Up Faggot and (to an extent) Cryptograms. Indeed, this is a different kind of noise. Songs like "Death Drag" and "Lake Somerset" were certainly coated under excessive layers of dissonance, but there was a different mindset behind that action. Those noise rock assertions merely scratched the surface of what can be done with amelodic instrumentation and extreme dissonance. "Neon Junkyard", "Leather Jacket II", and "Monomania" are all assaults on the senses, but their piercing sounds don't merely exist for the sake of noise, these waves of sonic distortion have a realized purpose. "Neon Junkyard" and "Monomania" are typically structured rock numbers that progress into surrealistic collages of sonic innovations. "Leather Jacket II" is where Deerhunter descend into complete discord. The entirety of "Leather Jacket II" is obscured by a cloud of unrepentant fuzzes and drones, but it's in the latter portion that the track becomes a dadaist-like display of madness. This distortion 'solo', so to speak, is utterly compelling though and even has a personality to it. It's as if it were mimicking a human voice or a set of notes exuded from an instrument, making it feel more like an essential aspect of the song rather than a decorative component. Much like The Velvet Underground's "Heroin" and "The Black Angel's Death Song" manipulated audio feedback and dissonance to establish either dramatic tension or a hypnotic environment when needed, Deerhunter alter the mood and texture of distortion to evoke a reaction upon the listener that draws them into the chaos rather than repel.

This newfound admiration for a louder sound certainly comes as somewhat of a surprise. Ever since the release of Cryptograms, and particularly Microcastle and Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter appeared to be well devoted to their love for mellifluous allure. If there's one aspect of their music that Deerhunter has always excelled in, it's their instinct for spellbinding atmospheres. In fact, Deerhunter shine best when they're submerging the listener in a tranquil sea of psychedelic melodies. "Sleepwalking", "The Missing", and "T.H.M.", with their euphonic harmonies and relaxed tempos, vaguely rekindle that signature vibe. "Sleepwalking" is, at least in my opinion, the absolute highlight of the album. It's mildly reminiscent of the 'soft-garage' style, and vocal style for that matter, that The Strokes perfected during their pre-Angles days, while also exhibiting Deerhunter's affinity for textured soundscapes that add a familiar, hazy feel to the music. "Sleepwalking" is driven primarily by mellow, yet catchy guitar riffs and Bradford Cox's tender croons of a complicated romance. A combination that has always been irresistibly enticing. The heavier tracks of the album like "Pensacola", which sounds close to what would happen if The Strokes decided to replicate Iggy Pop's production of Raw Power, serve as a kind of middle-ground between the noise-inspired spectacles and the mellower songs. These have a primitive, 'back-to-basics' rock sound to them that focuses more on 'tamed' fuzztones and a straightforward delivery, as opposed to the elaborate progressiveness of the other tracks.

To refer back to my opening statement, Monomania is certainly an exciting album and explores a diverse range of musical philosophies (within Deerhunter's own spectrum of influences, of course), but it does take a bit of commitment to voyage through the fogs of dissonance and fall in love with what lies behind it. Be assured that despite the occasional standouts like "Sleepwalking" and "The Missing", which are more than capable of immediately coercing intrigue, Monomania is nothing like Microcastle or Halcyon Digest which host various potential favourites throughout their respective tracklistings. This abstract and noisier sound in Monomania presents a style that we, despite sounding familiar, haven't necessarily heard Deerhunter conjure up before. A grand portion of the tracks are very sonically complex and almost unforgiving in their obsession with distorting the expectations of fans, therefore Monomania is most likely destined to stand alongside Turn It Up Faggot as an 'acquired taste' within the band's discography. Monomania still manages to bond with the listener on an emotional level though, but because it lacks the infectious catchiness of its more melodic predecessors, this connection needs to be nourished by a sincere interest to reach the profoundness once encountered in songs like "Agoraphobia" and "Helicopter". With that said, Monomania isn't an album you can just listen to and expect to be instantly bewildered by the newfound level of finesse and ingenuity. No, Monomania demands undivided attention and continuous play to truly see the beauty within its surrealism.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2013



4376 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

Here's my review for Deerhunter's new album. It really grew on me these past few weeks.

Here's a full album stream:
http://www.npr.org/2013/04/21/177759938/first-listen-deerhunter-monomania?sc=tw&cc=twmp

If anyone has any constructive criticism they want to add or any advice on the review, please feel free to leave a comment. Enjoy.

Rev
May 7th 2013



9371 Comments


Wow really great review Hernan!

I really need to check this out

sixdegrees
May 7th 2013



16677 Comments


good album, I think it will grow on me like their other stuff

robin
Emeritus
May 7th 2013



4241 Comments


EVER SINCE I WAS BORN

I HAVE FELT SO... FORLORN

joplinpicasso
May 7th 2013



427 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This is a fantastic review -- fully loaded with knowledge of their past and current status as a musical group. In hindsight, the outrageous press release that accompanied this album really described it in a perfect (and ridiculous) way, and you help flesh all those ideas out.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2013



4376 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

Thanks guys for the feedback.

@joplin
Thanks. I was worried as to how this review would turn out. I'm glad to hear it's adequate.

YoYoMancuso
May 7th 2013



10777 Comments


this review is the balls hernan, wanna get into this band sometime soon

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2013



10240 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

great review Hernan, i appreciated the context

Digging: The Bilinda Butchers - Heaven

Hep Kat
May 7th 2013



14985 Comments


is this whole thing on spotify yet they only had some gay sampler b4 too lazy 2 check

Digging: Merchandise - After The End

mindleviticus
May 7th 2013



8151 Comments


I don't agree at all but great review sgtpepper OR PAPERBACKWRITER. mOAR cryptograms plz

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2013



4376 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

Thanks, man. I'd suggest starting with Microcastle and Halcyon Digest, then Cryptogams (at least that's how I started). Then you can check out Weird Era (good) and Turn It Up Faggot (meh). They're a great band, I'm sure you'd like them.



mindleviticus
May 7th 2013



8151 Comments


Cryptograms is probably one of my favorite albums

Hep Kat
May 7th 2013



14985 Comments


o nice it is on spotify prolly will listen 2morrow while I do paperwork

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2013



4376 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

Thanks, Rudy and Mindle.

@Hep Kat
It's on spotify currently. so yeah, check it out.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2013



4376 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

@Hep
Oh, you beat me to it. anyway, enjoy, man.

@Mindle
Yeah, I love Cryptograms, though Microcastle and Halcyon Digest are tied for my favourite.

YoYoMancuso
May 7th 2013



10777 Comments


alright sounds cool, just sampled Microcastle and Cavalry Scars, both fantastic songs.

plane
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2013



6085 Comments


Fantastic review, man. It seems that all the positive reviews of this album have approached feelings for the work in really different ways. Interesting to read.

For anyone looking to get into Deerhunter, I strongly suggest working from Cryptograms forward. Even if you don't take to Cryptograms at first, get some context and come back to it.

mindleviticus
May 7th 2013



8151 Comments


Providence....providence

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2013



4376 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

@plane
Thanks. I've only read pitchfork's, but I have been noticing how well received this album has been. It took a while for me to get into the the album, but I've grown to like this direction. What did you think of the album?

plane
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2013



6085 Comments


I love it. Find it much easier to listen through than Halcyon Digest. That album felt like a lot of floating ideas that never coalesced, not in the way Cryptograms, Microcastle, or even (my current favorite) Weird Era Cont.. "The Missing" and "Sleepwalking" (gaaaah the melody) have been on repeat since they came into my possession.



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