Music Reviews
Spiderman of the Rings

Dan Deacon Spiderman of the Rings

(Carpark) Rating - 8/10

Going back to listen or to watch something you once loved at the wee age of five is always an interesting activity; is Homeward Bound or Blue's Clues really as good as you raved about to your playground peers? (In the former case, yes.) You're sometimes embarrassed at what you once perceived as masterful, but age and wisdom has taught you what's right. So what happens when something new seems to go back and pluck out the things you once loved as a kid (Atari video games, Saturday morning cartoons, and twinkling lullabies, amongst others) and throw them hazard-like into an eclectic, slightly annoying, childlike electronic blitz? You get Dan Deacon's Spiderman of the Rings, a restless, nostalgic adventure that bites off more than it can chew but goes ahead and swallows it anyway.

You could call the sound a clash of Animal Collective and the Shins with a few sparks of originality for flavour, but it's hard to tell if that's altogether accurate. Spiderman doesn't always make for an instant favourite; album opener Woody Woodpecker is the cartoon's trademark laugh looped around its different octaves as a xylophone clanks around it. First listen is aggravating, and the second doesn't fare well either. But this epileptic episode gives way to an electronica ballad, with the same xylophone computer generated into a more mature sound as the laughs fade away but never leave; is this Deacon showing the frailty of childhood and how some of us want to hold on?

Deacon sure does. The Crystal Cat, a reverberating animal obsessed track sung in a helium squeal about Beastman, stands to debunk the change of tone in Woody. Snake Mistakes takes its cue from Atari's 8-bit games and sends them soaring about its bumping bassline. Deacon sings, "I make these snake mistakes, I make these pony roads. I know. Why won't these bees leave me alone? I hate them bees," keeping the helium squeal but still incorporates his own youthful voice's exuberance. When he sends his voice through a synthesizer, dropping the music, and sings, "My dad is so cool," it's tempting to just agree.

Deacon is still poised to make a thoughtful album, giving the enthused strings and computers of Pink Batman an epic flight of controlled chaos, while Big Milk is a twinkling baby mobile, humming its sweeping lullaby. It's sweet but aged, a lullaby for the young at heart, not the heart of the young. Deacon's heart lies in fitful exuberance, giving his soul over to the shifting sonic waves of Okie Dokie and Trippy Green Skull, which wouldn't be out of place with a guest appearance by Cee-Lo in his Gnarls Barkley glory. Deacon's real masterpiece here is the epic, twelve-minute Wham City, which seems too long for the eccentric, in-dire-need-of-Ritalin Deacon, but is a perfectly orchestrated synthetic pop track nonetheless. Never outstaying its welcome, Wham City bounds along leisurely and changes tactics before it becomes boring, but Deacon never lets his focus stray.

There's a part of me that wants to just call this a classic and stick a perfect 10 on it; it's a joy to behold, eclectic and cast out into the world without inhibition. But at the end of the day, it's just wishful thinking in a world of cynicism and scrutiny. Spiderman of the Rings isn't for everyone (the truth is, you probably won't like it. Take a look at that cover; it's a pretty good summary of the chaos inside), but Deacon isn't sacrificing his sound for anyone. You could call it an acid trip, but that would be an insult; it's a child's vivid imagination brought to life in a colouring book musical. It's cheerful and childish; bright and awake. It's off-the-wall and suffers from an acute case of attention deficit disorder, but therein lies half its charm. The other half lies in pastel colours. And down the line, if I come to hate it, there will always be a part of me that finds Dan Deacon a genius.