Monomania is surprisingly unsurprising. Deerhunter's fifth album doesn't make any sharp turns or present many difficult-to-digest moments. It rocks.
There hasn't been a lobotomy. Bradford Cox -- and the rest of the band, to a much smaller degree -- still exhibits thoughtful, creative and downright weird songwriting chops. The two-punch opening tracks display some of the harder material on the album. The disjointed, distorted vocals echo unpredictably around “Neon Junkyard” and the guitars moan, grumble, scream and vomit, even, on “Leather Jacket II.” But then the sharp sounds and knotty layering vanish and things get mellow and hazy for “The Missing.”
The neon sign album art sets the scene for everything that follows. Monomania is what it sounds like when Deerhunter goes to the dirty neighborhood bar. “Pensacola” feels as dirty south as its title, or, more appropriately, a garage band's take on southern rock. That's partly Bradford Cox's singing on the track, but also the storytelling. It's a sad, folksy tale turned dirty and distorted.
Even with the upper register staccato guitar string plucking of “Blue Agent,” Cox cancels out anything too beautiful or delicate by snarling through lines like “If you ever need to talk / I won't be around / If you ever need to fight for life / I'll make no sound” and, doubling down later, “If you need a friend now / better look someplace else.” The same goes for the dark lyrics, fuzzy vocals and sharp drumming dirtying-up the spunky organ sounds on “Back to the Middle.”
Who knows what any of this means in the grand scheme of Deerhunter. Or is there even a scheme? Cox is notoriously impossible to get a grasp on and admits that everything is entertainment, an act of showbiz, yet the music reeks of an effort to be authentic. Monomania is another great performance.