Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-05-21


Deerhunter: Monomania (4AD, 2013) Consider me converted, at least until Bradford Cox lurches off in yet another direction. Here he opts for the kind of lo-fi garage scuzz that's always said to come bearing melodic emoluments and seldom does except in its punker forms--and now this progger one. Well into its 12 songs in 43 minutes, the tunes maintain as reliably as classic Ramones, one after another after another. Not that they're nearly as neat--there's distortion everywhere, vocalsguitarskeyboardsnotessounds. But for once the distortion just adds savor the way it's supposed to, as do the three trickier and less ingratiating ear-stickers that close. As for themes, whaddaya think? He's alienated, heartsick, confused. OK, fella. Just keep putting that time in at the garage. A

Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires in the City (XL, 2013) Think maybe this is overworked? Think maybe the hosannas are reflexive, generalized? I did, and then I didn't. So now think Paul Simon instead if you insist, admittedly a great album. But Sgt. Pepper is a truer precedent, to wit: if you're smart you say where's the rebop, only if you're smarter you quickly figure out that maybe sustaining groove and unfailing exuberance don't matter as much as you believed. Each verse/chorus/bridge/intro melody, each lyric straight or knotty, each sound effect playful or perverse (or both)--each is pleasurable in itself and aptly situated in the sturdy songs and tracks, so that the whole signifies without a hint of concept. And crucially, the boy-to-man themes you'd figure come with several twists I've noticed so far and more no doubt to come. One is simply a right-on credo: "Age is an honor--it's still not the truth." Another is how much time Ezra Koenig spends wrestling a Jahweh-like hard case. The Big Guy comes out on the short end of a fight song called "Unbelievers," and a DJ "spinning 'Israelites' into 'Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown'" gives Him a nasty turn. But Koenig claims no permanent victory. Too smart. Too much a man, too. A+

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