Sometimes it’s hard to know what to make of Dan Deacon. There’s a youthful, unfettered exuberance throughout his catalogue that makes itself known via repetitive and chaotic but extremely tightly composed excursions of percussion and electronic tones. But just what is it? Is it pop, electronic, punk, post-rock, drone-wave, or maybe all of the above? Deacon’s occasionally lengthy songs often unfold like post-punk gamelan compositions, with multiple tones, rhythmic patterns, repeating melody lines, and vocals clashing and colliding, but resulting in some very listenable experimental rock. His latest release, America, is the most fully formed and thought-out of his albums, perfectly joining his concept of a free-form punk mentality with classically influenced structure and arrangement.
America is divided into two parts. The first part consists of several individual songs, the best of which is the lush “True Thrush,” a track formed by whirling guitars and drum patterns and glued together by Deacon’s actually very well sung vocals, backed by an epic chorus of “ah’s” and “oh’s.” “Lots” is a harsh and abrasive tune, awash in fuzz that coats vocals and instruments alike. Deacon settles down for some appealing, tinkling ambient-style drones on the aptly titled “Prettyboy,” a track that offers a moment of clarity before the driving “Crash Jam.” The second part of the album is a song in four movements called “USA,” which references the band USAISAMONSTER. It is tempting to dismiss this as grandiose overreaching for undeserved importance, but Deacon has a well-formulated plan here. The movements segue into each other and range from inspiring horn and string heralding to electronic dance-floor bumping to meandering blips, bleeps and static. This section of the album is best listened to as a whole in order to really get the full picture of Deacon’s unconventional musical vision.
Deacon is clearly full of ideas jostling around in his bearded head, and America seems to be a fine way to work them all out. At times the songs drag and seem to over extend their welcome, but those moments are infrequent. Mostly Deacon knows when to quit and when to change a tempo or add a new sound to the mix. Though at times his music may be difficult to sink your teeth into, it only takes a few listens to hear that, despite his unorthodox approach, Deacon is creating experimental music that is actually based on some basic pop principles….