Record Review by Alex Pudlin
Dan Deacon’s live shows are so legendary that it’s sometimes hard to remember that he’s an actual artist and not merely a party-starter. You’ve probably seen the images before: a bespectacled balding teddy bear of a man surrounded by crowds of hipsters in ecstatic bliss. Deacon has made a name for himself by literally performing amongst the people, transforming General Admission into a stage where the entire audience can participate in the fun. Yet a quick listen to Deacon’s latest indie-electronic opus, Bromst, will reveal that he’s so much more than a mere dance party conductor. Deacon’s penchant for quirky noises abound, but elsewhere on Bromst, Deacon uses his deft melodic and compositional senses to reveal a soul that goes far beyond just having a good time.
Much like James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), Deacon understands the importance of balancing the whimsical with the emotional. Deacon showcases this tender balance best on the trio of “Snookered,” “Of the Mountains,” and “Surprise Stefani.” “Snookered” begins with an ambient soundscape of chants and glockenspiels. Soon a tom-tom heavy beat drops and clanging, sitar-esque synths ring out as Deacon laments, “This taste of milk is almost gone. I’ve still got my shape but not for long.” Over the next six minutes, Deacon alternates between sung harmonies, fluttering beats and a cut-up vocal sample breakdown to portray an epic vision of the precariousness of youth: a quarter-life limbo stuck between celebration and responsibility. The next track, “Of the Mountains” builds from a few jingling bells to an almost-spiritual chant of vocals and synths. By the time the melody of “Row Row Your Boat” arrives, you’re in such a trance you may not notice it. On “Surprise Stefani,” Deacon steers the track from ambient to Philip Glass-inspired electronic music to a Tortoise-esque conclusion of layered glockenspiels.
Although Bromst has plenty of other thrilling moments, the aforementioned trio of songs are so fully realized musically and conceptually that the rest of the album can’t help but exhaust. By the time we get to the final track, “Get Older,” Deacon has utilized such a rich arsenal of sounds and songcraft that he begins to repeat himself. At 64 minutes, Deacon could’ve greatly benefited from some omission here and there. Nonetheless, the charms of Bromst are so plentiful that its bloated length can easily be forgiven. After all, with songs that sound like Animal Collective fronted by the Teletubbies (“Woof Woof”) or a festive Munchkin singalong (“Baltihorse”) alongside synth-arpeggios a la Who’s Next (“Slow with Horns/Run for Your Life”) and even a slice of Appalachian folk (“Wet Wings”) a complaint about album length is almost moot. Ten minutes too long or not, Deacon has created a sophisticated, ambitious work that one can just as easily enjoy amongst a throng of sweaty hipsters as he/she can alone in bed.
Dan Deacon / HEALTH - Live - January 18, 2008
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