Back to the Middle
Creo recordar que en una de las últimas ocasiones que hablé de Deerhunter mencionaba que la banda de Bradford Cox iba sembrando de obras maestras el camino de su andadura musical. También decía que Halcyon Digest, su último trabajo (como Deerhunter) hasta la fecha, era algo así como el Loaded velvetiano de su carrera musical.
Para ser sincero, los adjetivos se me van quedando cortos y estrechos a la hora de etiquetar la música de Deerhunter. En Monomania (2013), los chicos parece que se decantan de nuevo por una faceta algo más oscura y desde luego por una distorsión mayor (Monomania, Leather jacket II, Neon junkyard, Punk -La Vie Antérieure-); faceta destacable no sólo en el sonido de las guitarras e instrumentación, sino también en la mayor parte de las voces de Cox, reflejo quizás de una situación personal o vital algo más amarga (no así en los temas aportación de Lockett Pundt, mucho más pausados y dreampoperos: The missing).
Lo que sí que es cierto es que (de nuevo), la mayor parte de los temas que componen este disco son tremendos. No sé por qué, pero cada vez que oigo a Deerhunter tengo la impresión de encontrarme ante una “bestia” creativa como Lou Reed y las relaciones que encuentro a Deerhunter con la Velvet Underground siempre son grandes. En Monomania volvemos a encontrarnos con auténticos monumentos sonoros: The missing, Dream captain, Back to the middle… Cortes inmensos en los que la creatividad unida al acierto compositivo (esos riffs geniales o los mantras sonoros “marca de la casa”) hacen del conjunto un momento inolvidable.
Si bien Deerhunter quizás abandonaron ya su veta, digamos, más “experimental” (influencias del Kraut, acercamientos electrónicos…), los temas de los de Atlanta siempre dejan ese poso a medio camino entre el Pop más experimental y Psicodélico (Sleepwalking).
Monomania no pasará por ser su mejor disco (le falta un cierto poso de unidad), pero, como se afirma en Jenesaispop, “es un disco de Deerhunter”. El quinto álbum de la banda de Bradford Cox es un disco con diversidad de elementos (Craunchies e incluso algo discordantes en el conjunto: Pensacola), pero según han afirmado recientemente, algunas de sus influencias son Bo Diddley o The Ramones. Ello da una idea del pensamiento (amplio) y de la diversidad de miras de Deerhunter. Su música perdurará. De ello no me cabe duda.
“But while the songwriting power has become centralized, Monomania as a whole represents Deerhunter’s attempt to get outside themselves. This is particularly true of Cox; whereas onCryptograms’ “Hazel St.”, he imagined what it might be like to fit in with the normal kids during his childhood in Georgia, years later, this dynamic is fully inverted and he’s found a group of outcasts that’s emboldened in their idiosyncratic embrace of a Dixie upbringing. You can hear the influence of neighbors/collaborators Black Lips in dirtbag storytelling like “Pensacola”, or just in the plain fact that Monomania is the first Deerhunter album that would be welcomed in a dive bar. Their previous physicality was defined by coiled intensity and quick strikes, whereas here they swagger and flex beer muscles. The perverted classic rawk riffs of “Neon Junkyard” and “Leather Jacket II” twist and yowl while “Back to the Middle” and “Dream Captain” are so immediately accessible, they could somehow come off as beneath Deerhunter.
The more prevalent inspiration comes from fellow Athenian and mentor Michael Stipe; you can hear echoes of R.E.M.’s Monster in both the obscene distortion and the decision to follow up their richest, most rococo record with a defiant squall. Cox similarly plays against his reputation given the opportunity, using winks and irony to deviate from the impression that his band’s music is somewhat humorless and sexless. It’s every bit as confrontational as Deerhunter in their dress-wearing, blog-attacking days, only more fun. This can manifest in the glammy stream-of-consciousness from Monomania’s opening duo (“I am the Queen of Bass,” he announces on “Leather Jacket II”), or any of the first-person narratives that make good on his purported Hank Williams and Bo Diddley listening. Taking as many liberties with “Werewolves of London” as Kid Rock, “Dream Captain” might come off as puerile southern comfort if it wasn’t such an obvious defilement of it– bratty boasts like “I’m a boy, man/ And you’re a man, man” are tough to hear as anything other than comedy. Likewise, on “Pensacola”, an unfaithful woman leaves a Greyhound-riding somebody who is clearly not Bradford Cox with “a bald head and trouble.” Is it unfair that Deerhunter can get away with these because they’re Deerhunter, whereas it’s pure shlock from any number of southern rock revivalists? Perhaps, but having a laugh at one’s own expense is hardly the most egregious form of an earned indulgence.
But while Monomania as a whole is an unpredictable fulfillment of an unforeseen whim, it’s Deerhunter’s least revelatory and surprising album on a song-by-song basis. There isn’t a clear showstopper along the lines of “Helicopter” or “Nothing Ever Happened”, though the title track makes an admirable effort. They’ve always had a knack for mantras, and after a verse of plaintive gospel shouts (“Come on God, hear my sick prayer/ If you can’t, send me an angel!”), the nagging phonetics of “mono, monomania” get repeated ad infinitum before dissolving into white noise, motorcycle revving, and a soap opera device that Deerhunter makes frequent use of: after all this time, Cox unexpectedly wakes up.
“I was a dream of myself,” Cox admits during “Nitebike”, a startling confessional of nothing more than his reverbed vocals and acoustic guitar. Perhaps taking another step back towards the medical maladies that pervaded both his youth and early Deerhunter, he imagines himself on his Big Wheels, “On the cusp of a breakthrough/ When they took me out/ And stuck it in/ It went so deep, man.” Another line gets repeated in greater detail on the Baudelaire-referencing closer “Punk (La Vie Antérieure)”, where Cox muses, “For a year, I was queer/ I had conquered all my fears/ Not alone anymore/ But I found it such a bore.” It feels something like Cox’s “All Apologies”, a litany of wearied, bemused dissatisfaction with everything that he presumed might save him– getting drunk, being punk, friends, lovers. The plainspoken finality of “Punk” suggests it’s not just a closure on Monomania, but of everything that preceded it.
And that could be disappointing for a lot of people since Monomania is the first Deerhunter record that isn’t a quantifiable leap from what came before; the narrative and artistic arc that ran from Cryptograms to Halcyon Digest was clear and upward, their diametrically opposed centrist indie songwriting and diffuse, noisy ambience eventually converging into a brilliant horizon point. While a knocked-out, “back to basics” approach makes a lot sense as the follow-up to Halcyon Digest, it adheres to someone else’s idea of “basics” and follows the longest break between Deerhunter albums. But Monomania is certainly a strong effort on its own merits, and more importantly, they’ve avoided making their deflating “diminishing returns” record– their King of Limbs, Centipede Hz, Transference, Sky Blue Sky, etc.– that casts doubts about whether they’ve gone too far down the same path. They’ve pulled off something admirable in making an illogical left turn feel like the logical next step where one didn’t exist. For the first time since Cryptograms, Deerhunter’s next move will be harder to predict than Cox’s” (Pitchfork)