Dan Deacon: Bromst
Spiderman of the Rings was a hyperactive jukebox of pantomime songs and cartoon soundtracks; hilarious and disjointed. I much preferred those songs as part of Dan Deacon’s live show, where it was impossible NOT to get swept up in the man’s passion for fun and dance-mania. He might be a pudgy nerd, but he’s a damn charismatic showman.
Deacon was quoted to say that Spiderman’s follow up, Bromst would be a more mature and musical affair. Based on that I was inspired to pick it up, and while I’m not entirely disappointed I don’t think it’s that far removed from its predecessor.
I was really into Bromst on the first few spins, but its charms wore off quickly and I completely forgot I even had the record until I saw Deacon’s face on the cover of a magazine a few days ago. His music is like a giant bag of lollies; it might be tasty and addictive, but after a while your teeth hurt and your head aches. The sugar rush only lasts so long.
To be fair, Deacon has toned down the crazed chipmunk vocals and zany bleeps. They’re muffled by piano trills, smooth horns, oohs, aahs and world music moments. He gives each song time to breathe and grow rather than jumping into party business. The trouble is, he can’t resist the urge to smash every subtle moment into a childish, casio-spasmic freakout re Spiderman. Perhaps Deacon feels that he can’t stray too far from people’s expectations or else he’ll lose their attention. For me, it gets old quickly.
He avoids all this on the standout track Surprise Stefani, which begins with a beautiful drone laced in feedback and limitless space. Enter a pattern of spliced Barber Shop quartet vocals that remind me of Tortoise’s Unknown (from It’s all Around you). He introduces some ringing pianos and a mid tempo drum beat, and then we have a pleasantly psychedelic moment urging you to trance out on the dance floor. At the halfway point things shifts down a gear into rolling bass, drums and atmospheric feedback before a magical xylophone melody drives you home. Surprise Stefani has a character arc that the rest of the songs lack despite obvious attempts to achieve the same effect.
For now, Deacon remains a triumphant live act that shatters inhibitions with nerd infested party tunes not suited stereos (although apparently he’s touring this record with a live band which, combined with his increasing popularity will have to change the intimacy of his shows). However, it would be great if Bromst is a mere stepping stone for Deacon’s recorded career towards losing the shallow zaniness. The increased range of sound and instrumentation on Bromst demonstrate that years of music school have given him a knack for composition and musical mathematics. I wish he’d let that flag fly more.