Deerhunter have trafficked in high, electronic wash, but it should really come as no surprise that the band decided to go lo-fi garage with Monomania. They’re good friends with fellow Atlantans & garage-party kings The Black Lips (QRO live review), sharing a stage (QRO photos) and even a twitter account at times. Deerhunter did the ‘Round Robin’ tour (QRO live review) with electronic musician Dan Deacon (QRO live review) – and lo-fi ‘shitgaze’ punk outfit No Age (QRO live review). Frontman Bradford Cox (QRO solo live review) may take his sound to the fields of electronic wash in side-project Atlas Sound (QRO live review), but he’s also known for being wild on stage – and dressing wild (QRO photos).
However, there’s a lot of lo-fi garage out there, and it’s a genre that’s harder to stand out in than high electronic wash. Deerhunter have the skills to stand out in this pond, even if it’s not the bigger pond that you wish they were in.
Right from opener “Neon Junkyard”, Monomania is decidedly lo-fi and fuzzy, though Deerhunter are not lo-fi due to monetary or skill restraints (like so much of the scene), making it a relatively better lo-fi, especially with tracks such as “Dream Captain” and “Blue Agent”. Those lie back-to-back in the middle of Monomania, but there is also the somewhere between catchy & annoying garage ditty “Pensacola” early on, as well as “Leather Jacket II”, an even lower-fi, jumbled, noisy mess. That mess comes back with closer “Punk (La Vie Antérieure)”, which is better in its sweeter moments.
And there are sweeter moments on Monomania. “Sleepwalking” is some excellent sweet Deerhunter, or the fuzzy & bright “The Missing”. However, “Sleepwalking” is surrounded on both sides by frankly simple Deerhunter, “T.H.M.” and “Back To the Middle”. Meanwhile, the acoustic & echoing penultimate “Nitebike” goes on a bit too long.
Deerhunter have long balanced between experimental and accessible, and Monomania keeps in that tradition, even as it switches out the band’s traditional high electronic wash for lo-fi garage. Unfortunately, lo-fi garage doesn’t reward experimentation as well as high electronic wash, even for as skilled an outfit as this.