Deerhoof is sixteen years old and
infinitely young; their having finally taken off from the band’s birthplace of
San Francisco, it would be a cinch to then figure this new album as a
departure, the merry band of four all scurrying off with polka-dot bindles to
where? – the East coast? Superstardom? Truth is, I don’t see that they’ve
changed much. To say that these new songs are more “structured” than before is
like saying the Met is more structured than the Weisman. They contain fewer
sonic surprises than, say, 2004’s Milk
Man, and allow one to nod along with relative confidence as to where the
next beat is going to come from; but wherever Deerhoof are unpredictable, it comes from precision. How did they know to
put an Addams Family-like organ riff here? And to descend into funk jamming
over there? How did they know?
So when that just-knowing is fed into songs with such catchy grandeur as ‘Super Duper
Rescue Heads!’, you can only imagine the emotional carnage to be wreaked on a
humble fangirl’s soul. It opens with a synth line which tumbles, crystalline,
through minor into major, condenses into hard and artless guitar chords, then
to its bassy core for Satomi’s vocals: “me to the rescue / me to the rescue /
hello hello / you lucky so-and-so”. No matter how it shapeshifts, flumes and
recedes behind her, the song loses no momentum; it’s heavy, heady pop wrapped
up in a featherweight 2 minutes 36.
And throughout these twelve tracks you can
still hear that meticulous construction. The cacophony of different timbres on
first song ‘Qui Dorm, Només Somia’ (sung in Catalan), opens out from its
central melody with a thousand tiny picks and chisels, cataloguing all the
tropical, muddling, exuberant sounds of a Dirty Projectors record in one mad dash.
Sometime tour-mates Flaming Lips are also in the mix, in the wholesome
strumming and astral electronics of ‘Behold a Marvel in the Darkness’, and the
yet-spacier ‘The Merry Barracks’. The extraterrestrial feeling is pushed over
the edge with the inclusion of ‘Let’s Dance the Jet’ – a Mikis Theodorakis
cover from 1967 movie The Day the Fish
Came Out – faithfully flush with psychedelic organ and fuzzy, stomping
guitars. But this kitsch, B-movie funtime feeling is always counterweighted by
Deerhoof’s trademark hot, iron angularity, and what’s more – beauty.
Yup, beauty holds its own against fun like
never before on Deerhoof vs. Evil, and their power for once seems
matched. Despite some typically playful melodies, there are no odes to pandas
or basketball here; and there are some real graceful creatures to be found in
the Latin waltz of ‘No One Asked to Dance’, or the tangled boy/girl vox in
‘Must Fight Current’, fervent little “snow magic snow magic”s overlapped by
‘spinning round / stop and look / hit the ground.”
Every song’s a winner, and every limb and
molecule of each song is itself a winner. The match-up in the album title is a
no-brainer. I can’t think of a single band I’d rather summon in the battle vs.
evil than Deerhoof – a Deerhoof Ninja Zord, armed with five-pointed throwing
stars, of whose symbolism we could yell in our badly-dubbed voices: the five
forces of Fun! Beauty! Art! Space! and maybe Cowbell!
DOWNLOAD: ‘The Merry Barracks’, ‘Super Duper Rescue Heads!’, ‘I Did Crimes
For You’ MERYL TRUSSLER