Deadmau5: 4 x 4 = 12

If you’re going to cross over beyond the dance-music world, having a trusty gimmick helps. Just as Daft Punk are robots, Deadmau5—born Joel Zimmerman in Toronto—is, well, a mouse: He takes the stage in headgear so cartoon-cute it could have been devised by an ad firm. Unfortunately, Deadmau5’s albums sound that way as well. It’s easy to hear as well as see why he’s become a club favorite: Zimmerman makes (and DJs) pretty forthright techno. It’s as close to straight-up pop music as the genre generally gets without actually being song-based much of the time. He just doesn’t bring any interesting ideas or flourishes to his well-trod formulas, whether it’s the big synth whooshes and glam-rock-stomping schaffel beat of “Right This Second”; the half-baked verses from guest vocalist Greta Svabo Bech; the by-the-numbers, wobbling-bass dubstep coda of “Raise Your Weapon”; or, on “Cthulhu Sleeps,” a record-scratch-like synth line that heavily recalls Armand Van Helden’s “Necessary Evil” or DJ Dan’s “That Zipper Track.” Maybe malls need techno too, but everyone deserves better. 

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