Album Reviews

Dan Deacon – America

September 14, 2012

Score 6.8/10.0
Dan Deacon
Domino Records 

Welcome to Dan Deacon Island. Here you’ll find a hearty supply of rainbows, unicorns, laser cats, purple-coat basset hounds, and all the Little Debbie snack packs you can eat. All are home grown and free range, and are free to enjoy for as long as you stay on the island. All the while, Deacon himself will be blaring his blitzkrieg of saccharine tones through strategically placed speakers (one positioned every 5 feet) 24-7. If this sounds like your idea of a dream vacation, your name is probably Dan Deacon. The Baltimore electro-pop mad genius traffics solely in outlandish positive vibes. His latest album, America, brings more of the same.

America is a sound portrait of the geographic history of the USA, refracted through Deacon’s kaleidoscopic eyes. To Deacon, the United States is this expansive, unyielding colossus that requires breakneck speeds and a metric ton of rocket fuel to traverse. He crosses the plains, the deserts, trailblazes through forests, skims the surfaces of lakes, serenely tubes down rural rivers, never pausing to snap a picture or take a piss break. He travels by air, sea, train, car, truck, Radio Flyer, airborne DeLorean, you name it. And all the while, he views the landscape in full panorama, fitting as many images, sounds, smells and sensations as possible into every frame.

The first half of the album continues to channel Bromst, shimmering yet static torrents of cacophonous sound that still seek to effectively combine the natural with the artificial, with varying results. “True Thrush” is the most subtle of these first tracks, foregoing Deacon’s typical preference of over-percussion in favor of pitch shifted kitty-choruses and goofball soundboard effects. But like every Deacon tune, there’s always a hint of genuine pop beauty lying underneath the clutter, a nugget of genuine sonic brilliance drowning in an overwhelming aesthetic.

It is not until America’s second half that Deacon’s journey to the West truly begins. Strings full of pomp and horns raging with circumstance introduce “USA I: Is a Monster,” transporting the listener to the Disney version of the Wild Frontier. Do not mistake “Monster” to be a criticism of America’s post-colonial policies; in Deaconland, monsters are large and fierce but only desire to hug and squeeze and tickle and share some ho-ho’s with you. Just like the real America!

The entire USA series channels Disneyland’s Frontierland, or at least a version of it you would find in an abandoned Baltimore warehouse.  “USA III: Rail” is his ode to Big Thunder Mountain, pulsing with fine American steel and the soaked in the regal sweat and blood of a thousand PBS documentarians. And closing track “USA IV: Manifest” cowboy ups like a bro-step Andrew Jackson, inflicting total war from Maine to New Mexico, burning down everything in its while simultaneously announcing its victory parade.

For Deacon, this parade never stops. It continues all day, all night, undeterred by weather or cute bunny infestation. It considers the double rainbow to be passé, says you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a septuple rainbow, then pulls one out of its leather satchel. Dan Deacon, in coonskin cap and Technicolor native American breastplate, wants to take you through his Wild America. Keep your hands and feet in the car at all times.

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