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Deerhoof


Deerhoof : Friend Opportunity  

Written by: Emile Milgrim

Seems as though there’s this general consensus that Deerhoof have become increasingly accessible over their past few releases.  The claim is somewhat accurate when taken at face value, but employing that term, “accessible,” may bear some unfortunate implications.  Most stirring, perhaps, is the implication of intentionality, which can nearly negate artistic integrity. One can’t help but imagine a scenario where the band is literally discussing how to “win over” a broader audience by means of weeding out superfluous noise and writing catchier tunes.  While it's true that some of Deerhoof’s most recent material employs more elements of rock and pop structures then their earlier work, it’s important to keep in mind that these structures are still being used in tandem with copious abstract, experimental and improvisational components. That combination invokes an intrigue that knocks mere “accessibility” flat on its ass.

Exploding forth with superhero force, “The Perfect Me” immediately commands attention then redirects it repeatedly within its shifting and punchy structure. As an album opener, it either serves as an intense introduction to, or instant reminder of Deerhoof’s masterful rhythmic complexity and inventive arrangement.  “Believe ESP” is another bold concoction, where sludge metal-esque power chords are underscored by increasingly layered tribal beat patterns.  Satomi Matsuzaki’s twee-vocal lead provides solid pacing along sharp, wavering guitar lines which stand out against a backdrop of syncopated percussive elements.  Electro-acoustic outbursts then seem to fall randomly within the bridge, building up a textural primer for the song’s rounded ending.

Following the speculative, brass & piano-led “Whither the Birds,” a sudden, hyperactive guitar progression launches “Cast Off Crown.”  This lyrically/vocally gender-ambiguous piece presents Greg Saunier singing verses from a female perspective in his signature falsetto.  Twittering beats and bleeps are interspersed between the main verses, making for an interesting juxtaposition with John Dieterich’s powerful, concrete riffs.  Arguably the most straight-forward song on the record, “Matchbook Seeks Maniac” maintains a steady pace with organ and drum textures very much in the vain of a classic 60’s girl group;  a course of arrangement which necessitates an impending punch-line.  Here, it comes in the form of Matsuzaki’s choral exclamation “I would sell my soul to the devil, if I could be the top of the world,” with the refrain’s melody shadowed and reinforced on guitar. What’s curious is that this structurally and technically more- digestible track seems to simultaneously be the album’s most underwhelming, primarily due to its tighter, duller arrangement.

Where “Matchbook Seeks Maniac” slightly falters can serve to illustrate that it isn’t necessarily Deerhoof’s more (literally) accessible moments that should be a main interpretation of where they’ve headed, rather a small part of it.  Over 13 years and multiple line ups they’ve made music with no outright definable method, thus avoiding expectations of what it should sound like.  To achieve allowances at such consistent inconsistency is not something that just any given band can get away with.  And that may indeed be the true lure at play… The guarantee that Deerhoof’s output can range from restrained to spastic and familiar to alien, while always remaining strangely infectious.

 

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