Kevin LaRose, Hollywood 09/01/2013
This is a great record, kind of a departure in sound but also not really. It sounds like a Deerhunter LP, but also different. They take risks while still playing it safe, and it sounds really good as a result.
Deerhunter have released yet another highly addictive album with Monomania, which scraps some of the dream-pop influence of their past few records for a scrappier, garage-rock-oriented sound. It successfully calls to mind the fury of their earlier work without sounding like a retread or sacrificing the tunefulness of their newer work, instead feeling like a necessary shedding of elements and scope to distill their sound and focus on the songs themselves, which are as strong as ever. After opening with a couple of shredders — “Neon Junkyard” is like a backyard acoustic jam spray-painted in grime, while “Leather Jacket II” loops riffs and noise and echoes out Bradford Cox’s vocals to infinity — the album grips its melodic core with “The Missing,” a beautiful, simple pop ballad by the band’s underrated second songwriter, guitarist Lockett Pundt, whose ever-affecting guitarwork is only upended by his own shockingly emotive vocals in a new high for the shy-seeming Pundt. It’s followed almost hilariously by “Pensacola,” a straight-up honky-tonk rocker in which Cox and co. play both sides of the coin brilliantly — it isn’t ironic per se, but a knowing wink helps sell lyrics like “The woman that I love took another man/Well nothing ever ends up quite like what you planned,” or “Dream Captain’s” Queen-reffing “I’m a poor boy from a poor family.” Down and dirty suits Deerhunter. The insidious little riffs of “Blue Agent” are subtly intoxicating, and the scuffed-up presentation makes the jazzy chords of “Sleepwalking” all the more glorious. Monomania doesn’t quite have the emotional heft of an album like Microcastle, but its tossed-off nature is a big part of its charm, and buried beneath the din are songs as gorgeous and haunting as ever.