Deerhunter are a band that despite exploring similar sonic path to their peers, have taken a path that has set themselves apart from their peers. This may be in part down to the direction of the bands outspoken front man Bradford Cox, who remains a strange and unique presence on Monomania, where they offer a more immediate approach, distancing themselves from the dreamy shoegaze influenced sound that they originally found success with. Very little of the ambience that crept its way into their previous efforts, mainly Cryptograms and Mircocastle, remains here. Instead they've made an impulsive rock 'n' roll snarl of a record building on the more direct approach of their previous album Halcyon Digest, here the songs replace the reverb with more distortion soaked simple, messy garage rock riffs.
Opening track Neon Junkyard starts the album of with a garage-rock strut as Bradford Cox's lyrics display the same balance between the easy to relate and the obscure, 'Finding ancient language in the blood/Fading a little more each day' and the chaotic use of distortion continues on the hectic Leather Jacket II. Fans will recognise the familiar tones of The Missing, featuring guitarist and sometimes vocalist Lockett Pundt taking over as front man, delivering a tune more in line with the Microcastle-era dreaminess, as synth lines wash around the guitars. If Deerhunter have a classic sound, this song comes the closest to it on Monomania.
The ramshackle Pensacola is a weak point in the album, sounding like an out-take from the early 90's lo-fi scene, with fuzzy country riffs that don't quite suit the band. Things pick up with Blue Agent, starting with an uneasy lead guitar line, as Cox sings with a quiet, detached vitriol 'If you ever need to talk/I won't be around/If you ever need to fight for life/I'll make no sound', before the song transforms with riff and simple guitar melody that could have come from one of the Pixies final albums.
The title track exemplifies their new approach best. The chorus finds Bradford Cox franticly repeating Monomania in a crazed and erratic fashion. Instead of using noise to gently smother you like a tide, here it it hits you with the impact of a car crash, ripping apart the track under layers of guitar noise that build like an accelerator put to the floor until only the sounds of a moped engine are left. The subdued Nitebike acts as a necessary respite from the noise with an acoustic guitar strumming as Cox croons in a mournful falsetto, aided by reverb and delay, reminiscent of Halcyon Digest track Sailing, highlighting how the band have always created some of their best moments when they take a direct and simple approach.
Much of Monomania seems to be trying to set itself apart from what’s happening right now in music, whether its looking back to the 90's or early rock n roll music, revealing a direct and rebellious streak that hasn't really shown itself in Deerhunter's previous releases, and provide a collection of 12 Rock 'n' Roll songs put through a filter of distortion and effects. Though it doesn't deliver the variety of sounds that their other albums have, with Monomania, Deerhunter seem to have tapped into a new attitude, and with it remain one of the most consistently interesting guitar groups of the last decade.