Few bands traversing the indie rock circuit are as prolific as Deerhoof: 18 albums over a quarter of a century--including three in the last two years. And no band matches their ability to draw from so many contrasting styles and influences while still creating something that sounds cohesive. On Actually, You Can, they alternate between chaotic math rock and hypnotic alternative, weaving an album that feels equal parts eclectic and spontaneous.
At the beginning of Can't Get You Out of My Head, the latest documentary by historian and filmmaker Adam Curtis, is a quote by anarchist activist David Graeber: "The ultimate hidden truth of the world is that it is something we make and could just as easily make differently." It sets the tone for a sprawling thesis about how we've arrived at our current state of global affairs, reminding the viewer that there's always another path. The film shares the same message at the heart of Actually, You Can, the 18th studio album by San Francisco's Deerhoof. It's a record of reimagination, revolution, and reconstruction in the face of a seemingly inevitable status quo.
Having spent their entire careers at the very forefront - the bleeding edge - of experimental yet accessible rock music, Actually, You Can is the most straightforward album of their entire career. It's streamlined, bare bones and offers a different palette than anything you'd be expecting to hear from Deerhoof in 2021. The band - drummer Greg Saunier, bassist/vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki, and guitarists Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich.
There are prolific bands, and then there are Deerhoof. After releasing two separate records last year, they’re now back again with their 17th studio album since 1996. Yet there’s no sign that the San Francisco quartet are suffering from flagging energy levels – this is a half-hour album that just does not let up. Opening track Be Unbarred O Ye Gates Of Hell (Deerhoof have always had a knack for a attention-grabbing song title) sets out the stall early.
Art by Jess Joy Actually, You Can by Deerhoof In a recent podcast interview with Matt Dwyer, Deerhoof's drummer and occasional vocalist Greg Saunier described listening to prog-rock band Rush as feeling like being handed a solved Rubik's Cube: all the hard work has been done for you and all the pieces have been put into place, so what's the listener expected to do with it? In contrast, Saunier described listening to The Rolling Stones as the opposite of Rush: the Stones sound like they're still working out how to play the songs, the riffs and rhythms interacting with each other in malleable ways. Deerhoof's music may not have the bluesy heritage of the Stones, but they do offer a similar sense of continuously playing around with the potential interactions between riffs and rhythms — though in a more avant, chaotic, punk-rock way. The title alone is a clue to the affirmation inherent in the band's latest album, Actually, You Can.