From the opening track “Neon Junkyard” the grime sets in. A dirtier, more scuzzy sound has crept in, setting off a normally more dreamlike sound with something that sounds rougher, meaner and more real. For real. This is a nice addition when so many albums today have been either Pro-Tooled to death with a sterile sound or completely unproduced. And by unproduced I don’t mean in a punk or rock and roll rough-edge sound, I mean just terrible studio chops.
The second song “Leather Jacket II” doubles down on the scuzz action, a mixture of guitar distortion, echoey vocals and sharp ins and outs on the volume levels. The effect is jarring, it woke me up and put me on edge. By the halfway point we hit the bridge and we’re completely rockin’ out with Deerhunter. The song goes down in flames, reminiscent of Sonic Youth Goo-era or Dirty-era experimentalism and feedback and chaos. It’s fantastic.
It seems that Deerhunter as a band are more comfortable in their skin this time around. They know their sound and are comfortable both in it and pushing the boundaries of it. The dream pop leanings are still there and punk meanings get amplified.
“Pensacola” gets all Bob-Dylan in its vocal narrative and has all of the glory of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road with its road trip vibes and bluesy swagger. It’s the post-beat generation soundtrack, decades later. “Dream Captain” mixes both Deerhunter and Atlas Sound vibes in a crossover of conflict. “Blue Agent” is a lively pop ditty that will stay in your head for hours. “T.H.M.” is subdued. At this point I’m still waiting for an off song or a sub par effort. I’m not finding it yet.
Oh wait, I spoke too soon. I’m listening the aptly titled “Sleepwalking” which is doing just that. Most of the songs so far on Monomania have all had a distinctly different aesthetic and sound to them. Sleepwalking sounds like a mushy recreation of some of the middle of the album. The also ironically titled “Back To The Middle” harkens right back to the middle of the album in its portrayal. Still, these songs are solid on their own, but it seems that they’re not pushing the envelope on these.
The song “Monomania” gets us back on track. It’s angsty and brooding, a seething start that emerges from dark clouds into a more smoothed out ride. Then we thrash in on the chorus with “Monomonomania, Monomonomania, Monomonomania, Monomonomania!” The guitars grind and drone us on a downward plane. Mr. punk thrash meets Mr. dream pop. This one goes down in flames like “Leather Jacket II,” leaving the listener spinning.
Deerhunter have put together a solid effort here, this is a serious album with serious intentions. It will grab you up out of your chair and shake you up. This is definitely is a contender for one of the better albums of the first half of 2013.