A musician like Dan Deacon — with his thick-rimmed glasses, neon-green skull that hovers above his keyboards and the Technicolored mini-suites that his albums comprise — seems inevitable in a generation defined by instant gratification and disposable pop culture. His live show is a stylistic mash-up, falling somewhere between a dance-driven DJ set and a shlocky bar mitzvah after-party. But, despite his seemingly disposable qualities, Deacon displayed a mastery of subversive pop art Tuesday night with the unveiling of his latest creation, “Ultimate Reality” — a DVD collaboration with visual artist Jimmy Joe Roche.
The DVD is a hilarious stab at psychedelia that stitches together visually manipulated clips of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s films into a hallucinatory progression that is terrifying and unexpectedly sublime. The musical underscore, composed by Deacon, uses synthesizers and drum machines to create a modulating series of rhythms and melodies that are artfully constructed and tailored to the film’s visual ebb and flow.
At first, the sheer absurdity of the concept resonated with the youthful El Rey crowd, and there was quite a bit of laughter and delight as a fully pregnant Schwarzenegger (clip taken from “Junior”) flickered on the screen. But as the film continued to play, complemented by the manic groove of drummers Kevin O’Meara and Jeremy Hyman, it revealed itself as a scathing, if gleefully irreverent, piece of social commentary.
Openers Abe Vigoda and Health played compelling sets that displayed L.A.’s burgeoning brand of no-wave to a wider audience. Deacon followed “Ultimate Reality” with a solo performance that revealed a number of new songs in addition to some of the best-loved tracks from 2007’s “Spiderman of the Rings” disc.