Spiros Politis

There's always been something borderline cringeworthy about Toronto electronic producer Deadmau5 (pronounced "dead mouse," duh). It's not just that great, gimmicky light-up mouse head he wears for the first few minutes of his shows (and, seriously, just the first few minutes?); it's that this mouse has a taste for cheese, specifically that of the progressive-house and embarrassing vocal-collab' varieties.

On new album For Lack of a Better Name, Deadmau5 (born Joel Zimmerman) uses big, fat kick drums (and filter-flattened hand claps and sonar-pinging percussive synths) to lay solid foundational grooves and persuade the appropriate kinetic response, but the tracks occasionally drift into trancey tedium (sounding sweet enough but unmemorable). The album is painfully hampered by its back-to-back sequenced pair of vocal tracks "Ghosts 'n' Stuff" and "Hi Friend!"

The former features floating, hollowed-out vocals that aim for big-room-anthem status but lack any lyrical or melodic hook worth singing along to, or even just listening to for that matter. (Its companion track, "Moar Ghosts 'n' Stuff," is thankfully free of vocals, but it does boast a rather B-grade, Justice-style distorted synth and organ riff.) Way, way worse is the breathless, brainless hiphouse rapping of one MC Flipside on "Hi Friend!"—the verses aim for a kind of unending, ecstasy-peaking build, but even with said substance, I imagine it would sound utterly goofy and grating.

The nonvocal tracks that surround these awful would-be singles provide more rewards and less wincing. "Bot," for instance, begins with a big, bit-crushed beat, then accrues ever-increasing swarms of flittering, arpeggiated synths, until it breaks, washes out, and begins the cycle again, only this time with just a hint of hand percussion and cowbell. The latter half of the album is fine, if sometimes forgettable, rave fodder—tense, synthy build; spacey, melodic break; lather, rinse, repeat—but Deadmau5 has run this maze faster, harder, and better before, as on last year's Random Album Title. recommended