Deerhoof - Deerhoof Vs. Evil
Alex Nelson 07/01/2011
San Francisco avant-rockers Deerhoof celebrated their sixteen year anniversary towards the end of 2010, and in the tradition of every angst-ridden adolescent looking to make their own distinct mark on the world they have provided us with an album that sounds unlike anything they have released before. This is not to say Deerhoof are not very much their own band already. 2003's Apple O' and 2008's Offend Maggie are but two albums which perfectly showcase their now refined penchant for melding experimental noise-rock guitars to candy tinted melodies to create an utterly diverse and challenging concept on music.
'Qui Dorm, Nomes Somia' (sung in Catalan) starts as a playfully afrobeat concoction which gives way to a rising atmospheric swirl. The track then explodes into a flurry of immediacy laden escalating guitars, which at first take a little while to make sense of and dissipate just as your ear has managed to grab hold of them. The piece then starts proper, and it's immediately clear to see Deerhoof's talents both as musicians and also on the fringe of the creative process. In another move of independence - perhaps fuelled by the band's metaphorically raging hormones - this completely self-recorded, mixed and mastered record has found life as a finely furbished specimen of a record, Satomi Matsuzaki's silky-smooth sounding bass taking a front seat on the opening track.
Lead single 'The Merry Barracks' proves a standout track, as each band member's respective parts dance around in their own secluded silence, jarring like bad Konono No.1 samples before each finding their footing and coming together to form an almost coherent, almost Radiohead-esque track. This is all before the song explodes - in typical Deerhoof fashion - in to an altogether different time signature, throwing the listener sideways for a brief moment before then grabbing them back to the main structure of the song. More surprises are in store for the listener throughout the remainder of the track, and the welcome stabs of squeally feedback are an appreciated inclusion and hark back to the oddball avant-sonance of Deerhoof's mid-90s debut.
But it's not all real good feedback and super sounding riffs. Deerhoof's latest effort is, at best, miss rather than hit. Obscure Greek soundtrack instrumental 'Let's Dance The Jet' proves just a tad too artsy even for this reviewer to handle, and 'No One Asked To Dance' is Deerhoof eschewing expectations in the worst possible way, as Spanish guitars lick along dangerously close to lounge music. But then I suppose, this band's sixteen year history of doing things their own way and trying something new means that nstances such as thus are a statistical certainty. But there are a few more hits on the way.
Mid-album track 'Secret Mobilization' benefits greatly from the band's super slick producing skills and carries with it all the super cool vibes and elastic rhythms of last year's Charlotte Gainsbourg/Beck collaborative effort IRM , before erupting into a straightforward balls-out three chorded outro riff to finish. 'I Did Crimes For You' is Deerhoof's stab at a feel-good type Flamenco type THING; all lazily strummed acoustics and handclaps which for the most part, works. It dissolves into a noisy cacophony of chaos a couple of times, and this can only be described as a good thing.
So in short, Deerhoof Vs. Evil is certainly a hard record to get a hold of. There are three or four really rather good tracks on here and long- term fans of the band will probably find solace in the fact that the San Franciscans have not subverted the extrovert that is their creative prowess. Deerhoof have created a piece of work which is just as daring, strange and bold as any of their records that have been before. Not a good starting point for anybody looking to get into the band's music afresh though, as its ideas and intimations are nothing short of daunting to the casual music fan, and the record sometimes sides a little too strongly on the avant-garde side.