One of the most telling parts of the press conference was when Cox voiced his views on gay marriage—he essentially rejected the idea that as a gay man he would be interested in the heterosexual norm of marriage as a construct, and reiterated that he has never had sex. This might seem off topic, but in a way, it seems more relevant than anything else as a revelation of how he sees himself in opposition to the status quo. Sex is one of the most basic forms of human connection, sharing self with others—marriage a commitment to maintain a communal relationship with at least one other person. According to Cox, he has few relational desires—there’s only monomania. The existential crises that plague the man behind the mask of Deerhunter seem to be summed up in the siren-like end of the record’s title track: “Monomania” as his confession, as his safety net, as his life.
Amidst the sound and fury of his media personality, it’s hard to distinguish what is façade and what is fact—or if Cox himself even knows the difference.
Amidst the sound and fury of his media personality, it’s hard to distinguish what is façade and what is fact—or if Cox himself even knows the difference. With the proliferation of indie rock bands, sub-genres, and media outlets to disseminate music, what really stands out these days is something people can’t figure out, a puzzle, a mystery. Cox has translated himself fully into the concept of “other”—whether this be to reject societal expectations or create some sort of rockstar persona. In his world, wearing a dress onstage is showing more respect to the categorical demands of musician, artist, and rockstar than most currently afford it. In his mind, staying after a concert to talk to the audience for 20 minutes is a totally viable option. In his mind, donning a wing and fakely bloodied fingers for a performance on Jimmy Fallon is a good way to show solidarity with his recently injured father.
You can hear him dismissively saying at the end of “Backspace Century” on 2008’s Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. “not good enough.” There’s a wealth of knowledge and talent here, there’s a drive that’s fascinating, but that perfectionist sadness persists, the self-inflicted isolation feels palpable, especially in this kind of prolific insistence.
Perhaps we’re the ones that made him this way, that indulge him in his eccentricities, that perpetuate the myth of his quirkiness. He’s right, indie rock has become stale, the phrase avant-garde is tossed around as a descriptor for anything people don’t understand. Cox offers us something we can’t quite grasp, a blip on an otherwise stable chart, a flash of the unknown in an increasingly transparent society. If what he wants is to be a profound cultural figure, a Rock Musician, a creator of meaningful art, it seems that he has achieved it. The group’s records are critically acclaimed: Deerhunter are surrounded by a media blitz, fêted by the critics, plastered on television screens and heralded by the indie rock sphere—they are rockstars. Is that what Bradford Cox wants? Who knows. But it seems he’s stuck with his monomania, and for better or for worse, so are we.