Deerhunter – Monomania
I’ll let you in on a ‘secret’: I don’t really like punk music. However, I do like Deerhunter and they are sometimes described, by themselves as well as others, as a punk band. I also don’t like being hypocritical. Oh dear. Well what this is really about, of course, is genre and the vagaries of its definition – ‘punk’ obviously has a wide meaning and part of what Deerhunter do falls under its umbrella. In fact, Deerhunter have much better terms to describe their music – evocative self-invented micro-genres such as ‘ghost rock’ and ‘ambient punk.’ I love this kind of pigeonhole side-stepping and they continue it by labelling latest effort Monomania “file under: nocturnal garage.” This album is billed as them ‘going back to their roots’ as a punk band, partly eschewing the increasingly lovely reverb-drenched dream-rock sound that had been developing over previous albums. As such, I find this a relatively difficult listen and slightly frustrating in parts – the overtly ‘punk’ style dominating many tracks, with their usual dreamy subtle brilliance replaced with simple bashed guitars and harshly mic’ed-up vocals. I get the impression that punk ‘fans’ (and I have read several reviews to this effect) will appreciate this for exactly the reasons I’m not so keen. Having said that, this is still Deerhunter, so there are several gems amongst the rough – for example guitarist Lockett Pundt‘s lovely The Missing, sandwiched between two crude slices of garage rock early in the album’s voyage.
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
A whopping eight years after their massively underwhelming, and possibly self-parodying, Human After All (2005), up pop dance music heroes Daft Punk with a thirteen track collaboration-filled magnum opus. Their landmark classic, Discovery (2001), may be a jumping off point, but this time rather than using samples they seem to have built everything meticulously from scratch. The result is almost brutally smooth, so far into cheese it comes out the other side completely straight-faced as a serious proposition. It sounds beautiful and effortlessly intricate – there is an exquisite level of detail lurking beneath the streamlined exterior. Often my issue with collaboration-heavy efforts such as this is that the producers change style too much to fit their guests, resulting in a muddled collection of genre experiments. On the contrary, such is Daft Punk’s vision on Random Access Memories that every collaboration fits the unified whole and it really feels like a proper Album. Most importantly, it’s a damn joy to listen to.