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Monday, June 18, 2007

Dan Deacon: "Spiderman of the Rings"

Despite a silly title, whimsical lyrics, and playful compositions, Dan Deacon's "Spiderman of the Rings" is music one should definitely take seriously. The album is comprised of the sort of glitchy, electronic tinkering that made up Sufjan Stevens' second, pre-states album, "Year of the Rabbit." At the same time, Deacon's music has a much more playful feel than Sufjan's, as evidenced by the title of the album and the tracks it contains. The end result is a fun-filled album, that should not go unnoticed.

"Woody Woodpecker" starts the album off on a rather sour note, to be honest. Almost every second of this 4-minute song is plagued by a sample of the iconic cartoon character's grimace-inducing chuckle, repeated over and over. The song clearly serves as the introduction to "Spiderman of the Rings," as it lacks the focus and characteristics of the album's real songs. As such, it's distractiveness can be excused and easily skipped over. "The Crystal Cat" picks things up a notch, and introduces listeners to what will be an ongoing theme throughout the album; the utilization of squeaky pitch-shifted vocals. What Deacon is actually saying here is a mystery to me, though I get the feeling that what is actually said is less important than what role the vocal melody plays with everything else that is going on.

"Wham City" is a 12-minute epic that features what sounds like a Munchkin Choir singing "There is a mountain of snow across a big land. We have a castle enclosed, there is a fountain. Out of the fountain flows gold into a huge hand," and other ridiculous, though admirable lyrics. The song is constantly evolving throughout it's 12 minutes, even coming to a complete halt at one point, only to slowly rebuild into its opening theme once again. It is certainly an ambitious song, and as such, it is also the highlight of the album.

"Big Milk" is the moment on the album where Deacon sounds most like Sufjan Stevens ala "Year of the Rabbit." It is a mostly calm song that features a xylophone and serves as a much needed exhale to the song it follows. "Okie Dokie" finds Dan coming as close as he ever does to a full on sing-along as he repeats "I've got a rattlesnake gun" like a mantra. Other highlights on the album include "Snake Mistakes" and "Pink Batman," both of which are excellently composed and brilliantly executed by Deacon as he chooses the perfect sounds for each part of the songs. It's hard to imagine them sounding like anything else.

Overall, "Spiderman of the Rings" is anything but disappointing or ill-advised. Deacon comes off as a musician who slaves over his craft, spending hours locked away in his bedroom turning knobs, pushing buttons, and figuring out the perfect lyric for a 5-second segment. Despite his distinctly childish approach to songwriting, his songs are so intricate and complex that they are clearly made by someone who knows what he is doing. Though the talent displayed on the album is astronomical, I have a hard time believing in its longevity. It doesn't seem like an album that I can play repeatedly for weeks without growing tired of it. But it's hard to be disappointed when I know that the time I am able to devote to the album will be some of the most enjoyable I've had in recent memory. If anything, Dan Deacon has created something that you'll always have fond memories of, even if the appeal wears off too soon. Quite simply, it is something you'll have a hard time forgetting. That's a good thing.

Recommended for fans of Sufjan Stevens' "Enjoy Your Rabbit" and anybody who wants to relive the endless wonder of childhood in music form.

Key Tracks:
1. "Wham City"
2. "Okie Dokie"
3. "Snake Mistakes"
4. "Pink Batman"

7 out of 10 Stars

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