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As you probably already know, Bradford Cox is an endearingly strange fellow. Born with Marfan syndrome, the 6’4” Deerhunter frontman has preternaturally gangly limbs not dissimilar to those of the late Joey Ramone, who also carried the genetic disorder. On stage, Cox makes the most of his condition, dolled up in make-up and flailing his stringy frame around in Victorian-era dresses, wigs or whatever else he happened to find at the thrift store that day.

Off it, the 33 year-old has a personality that’s as colourful as his wardrobe. Gay but reputedly asexual and described in one recent profile as a “lightning rod for controversy,” a couple of years ago Cox famously turned one Deerhunter interview into a hilarious diatribe about his intense dislike of Morrissey and the Smiths (“Morrissey’s influence is so crippling that it could even deteriorate the flower of modern creative thought. It’s like a pungent death shroud over the future and the past,” the singer said with characteristic understatement).

The reason all of this matters is that Deerhunter are a band in thrall to the projection of Cox’s idiosyncrasies; the intensity of their art-rock output is pegged to the ebb and flow of their mercurial bandleader’s emotions. Following on from a series of increasingly melodic releases that started with 2008’s ‘Microcastle’, the Atlanta, Georgia four-piece returned to the realm of abrasion with ‘Monomania’ in 2013 largely because Cox was feeling shitty at the time (“I was in a lot of pain and very lonely,” he explained recently).

Now, with this seventh full-length, Deerhunter are in a happier place – specifically, home. After cheating death in a serious car crash last December, Cox is revelling in the serene pleasures of domesticity. “I’m off the grid, I’m out of range,” he sings amidst the celebratory pop of ‘Living My Life’. “I’ve spent all of my time chasing a fading frontier / I’m living my life.”

Recorded in an Atlanta studio with ‘Halcyon Digest’ producer Ben Allen, ‘Fading Frontier’ is a blend of straightforward Americana (‘Breaker’, ‘Carrion’), ’60s-aping rock (‘Snakeskin’, ‘Duplex Planet’) and lush synth-pop (‘Ad Astra’). There are throwbacks to the warped tape loops and otherworldliness of albums like ‘Cryptograms’ with the introspective psych of ‘Leather and Wood’, while Broadcast’s James Cargill livens up excellent album centrepiece ‘Take Care’.

Be under no illusions, though: ‘Fading Frontier’ represents a conscious retreat from the scuzzy claustrophobia of ‘Monomania’ and a surge towards considered, contented songcraft. To bemoan the fact that Deerhunter aren’t operating on the frontier of indie rock at the moment would be to entirely miss Cox’s point.


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