Bradford Cox loves the Breeders, and I can’t fault him for it. He is locked in a mindmeld with the zeitgeist, a post-ego celebrity who is of his fans rather than above them. Microcastle sounds like a different band from Cryptograms. It is poppier, cleaner, focused and influenced by Porno for Pyros. In fact, it sounds happier, and Cox seems to be letting his Atlas Sound project carry the emotional weight. Atlas Sound is like a parody of a destructive punk band, a stand up comedy routine that occasionally degenerates into real haplessness as on the evening when Cox, drunk after one screwdriver (or was it really just juice?) broke Valet’s nose. Deerhunter, on the other hand, is the Big Serious Rock Band that tours with Nine Inch Nails.
In a way, Deerhunter couldn’t be further from Trent Reznor, first because its members have a sense of humor; they seem like kids playing dress up rather than real rock stars. Reznor merges with his persona, while Deerhunter stomp on the Internet-muted line between character and narrator. Cox himself epitomizes this Internet age – he actually is famous, but he is also a sick kid shopping at Target with his mom, and he feels compelled to present all sides of himself to whoever may be watching – kind of like that Gawker chick. But instead of analyzing his self-obsession, Cox heightens the nervy feeling of constructing a shrine to oneself – something we all recognize from updating our profiles – to absurdity.
One’s mid-20s is a second adolescence, and it’s basically really shitty trying to figure out how to be a person all over again. Identity seems more fluid the second time around without bumper sticker sentiment and clique identity to hang on to. In this confusion, reliving teenage jams is palliative. Only a new band with new songs can let us hear what Surfer Rosa and Meat Puppets II sounded like for the first time. Microcastle is an ode to, and a commentary on, that sound, a coming of age that revisits the past in order to break with it.
Tripping Daisy nostalgia music could obviously be so lame, but the project’s honesty saves it. The music doesn’t go far enough – it’s too restrained and mellow – but the point of view is crystal clear. This is alternative rock clinically perfected in a perpetual adolescence.