Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Biting the hand that feeds

I'm a big fan of Deerhunter and am very much looking forward to new LP Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? - but it has to be said that Bradford Cox comes across as grumpy verging on downright obnoxious in this Noisey feature.

Asked to rank his band's previous albums (a task he immediately grumbles about), Cox is dismissive at best and scathing at worst about those who've bought them. He's most bullish/belligerent about the new record's immediate predecessor, 2015's Fading Frontier, which he places third: "It's our least appreciated album. People need to get the fuck over it. People who call themselves our fans and hate this album... I can name all the weaknesses of all of our albums, but there is no weakness in Fading Frontier. There's not a single vocal I'd retrack, there's not a single effect I'd do differently. There's not a single editing point that's a bit off. Anybody who doesn't like this album, I don't think that they have the capacity to move beyond their fucking childhood and their little closed-in concept of what I'm supposed to be making. It's a perfect record. It should have been widely accepted. It should have won us new fans."

As a musician, Cox certainly won't be alone in hating the feeling of being constricted by the weight of fans' expectations and preconceptions and being disgusted by the nostalgic love for older albums that colours their appreciation of newer ones. However, it's astonishing to see that contempt expressed quite so openly.

More specifically, Cox also evidently remains bitter about the reception that Fading Frontier received. For what it's worth, I really like it up to the halfway mark - but single 'Snakeskin' ("an undefinable weird moment in our career") is awful, derailing the rest of the album, and to insist that it's "a perfect record" is the laughable hyperbole of a wounded artist.

2008's Microcastle, widely regarded as their masterpiece, is only placed second, with the top spot going to Monomania (2013): "the greatest album I've ever made and anybody that doesn't like it has no idea what I'm about or what I'm doing", he comments, like a snotty toddler having a tantrum. Again, it's a good record, one I came to love - but it's also no Microcastle or Halcyon Digest.

It's clear that Cox's love for Monomania is because it pointedly disrespects any notion of indie-rock (a term he hates) propriety. Certainly, it's all over the place - an often glorious, occasionally infuriating mess of ideas and pastiched styles. I had previously thought of the album as playful and perhaps even joyous in that respect, yet he describes the experience of creating it as "the most cathartic and dedicated and lost in a work of art I've ever been". Indeed, it was apparently recorded during a dark period for him personally, when he went through "a complete nervous breakdown".

Also noteworthy in the piece are Cox's comments about being "one of the first queer bands in our genre", his feeling that intra-group relationships have weakened over time (perhaps inevitably), and his admission that his favourite Deerhunter song is Halcyon Digest's 'Desire Lines' - a track that owes everything to producer Ben Allen, with whom he never saw eye to eye.

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