Deerhunter has been (in the opinion of this reviewer at least) the best rock band of the past five or so years. Largely because they weren't very "rock." They used samples and looped found noise, they made their guitars sound like keyboards, and they buried a lot of their hooks—all while crafting perfectly poised, polished, and precise rock songs. This made the first few listens to Monomania jarring. Monomania is most definitely a rock album, and it's far from polished or precise. From the opening croak (almost reminiscent of O.D.B. in its gutteralness) on "Neon Junkyard" through the jumpy shuffle of "Pensacola" to the alternately shambolic and militaristic title track, the sound is loose and mostly loud, with plenty of reverb and feedback. Even the more traditionally Deerhuntery-sounding songs ("The Middle," "T.H.M.," "Back to the Middle") lack the sheen of the group's previous work. The album is even classic-rock conventional at times, which squawling guitar solos and dashed off lyrical cliches.
That's not to say Monomania isn't great though. Deerhunter at its most conventional is still wonderfully strange; remember, the group debuted music from the album at PS1 last January by playing the coda from the title song—over and over again for 40 minutes until much of the audience left (lead singer Bradford Cox also trolled the group's fans by appearing on Jimmy Fallon with a bandaged, bloodied hand that appeared to be missing a couple fingers (it wasn't)). So one of the weirdest groups around made a beautifully ravaged, yet un-weird record. It still rocks. —Jack Erwin