If you remember the dawn of terminology like “viral video” and “meme,” you might already know who Dan Deacon is coming into “Feel the Lightning.” I mean, sure, you should know who he is because of his brazenly experimental, yet goofily upbeat brand of electronic music, but I accept that Deacon has entered more people subconsciously in video form than musically. You might remember him as the performer of an absolutely strung out, but endearing tune called “Ohio” that horrified an entire news station. Even more succinctly, he was also a lizard drinking out of cups and being a bitch (NSFW) as well as the sound maker behind the unedited footage of a bear (just assume it’s all kind of NSFW). Hopefully though, you’ve perused enough music blogs to discover a live video of one of Dan’s shows, which is thoroughly coated in banter, crowd-assisted dance choreography, and a rare, relentless kind of joy from all parties involved.
Seeing Mr. Deacon open for Arcade Fire in arenas this summer was a testament to the slow-moving, but dedicated fan growth from all of his live and viral endeavors, but a change was evident even before then. His last LP, America, untangled bits of his mess of sounds and wire to reveal a musician with wide-eyed, electro-poppy aspirations (“True Thrush” and “Prettyboy” being key examples), but “Feel The Lightning” has plugged pop directly into Deacon’s soundboard once and for all.
“Can you feel the lightning covering your skin? It’s a nightmare,” an chirpy, feminine singer begins over fuzzy synth and bongo beats. Its straightforward chorus, paired with lucid lines like “You went your whole life waiting for this moment to begin and now it’s over,” bears more resemblance to Passion Pit than anything Deacon’s ever done, but our great captain assures us in the verses he’s just having “infinite visions of something new.” And he’s not wrong as the song’s woes of a closed off, passing life are validated when you realize there’s no chirpy, feminine singer at all…it’s actually an incredibly pitch-shifted Deacon the entire time. The hilariously abstract music video continues Deacon’s long standing tradition of absolutely nonsensical concepts injected with glee, but “Lightning” is anything but. Imagined combinations of his newly high profile tours, signing to one of the biggest indie labels, and age itself seem fair to pour over in terms of what’s got Deacon so sad, but all Dan offers us is a vague wish that “we could change it to before we changed it” before scurrying behind those feminine vocals into a building fortress of pop.
“Lightning” is a song that’ll swing the doors wide open for people that only know Deacon through his videos, but, for long time fans, it’s the kind of first single that demands much more context. While being the most party-friendly song of his, it’s just not the kind of errant fun Dan’s been known to unleash for a decade now. At the crux of it, we’re left to wonder if “Feel the Lightning” is another grinning shake-up of people’s expectations or a larger move towards relatable terrain.