Release Date: Sep 4, 2012
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Noise Pop, Noise-Rock
“We've been called a lot of things, as you know. But pop has always marked the spot on the Deerhoof treasure map.” So says Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier, though it’s a little hard to believe, considering the band’s past form. Since their beginnings as an out-there San Francisco noise band, ‘pop’ must be the only word that hasn’t been used to describe Deerhoof.
DeerhoofBreakup Song[Polyvinyl; 2012]By Joshua Pickard; August 22, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetDeerhoof have gotten exceedingly adept at messing with our expectations. For every album they release that’s labeled as more straight forward and accessible—I’m looking at you Apple O—they go and release one (Milk Man, anyone?) that seems hell-bent on ostracizing their newly christened fans. I don’t think it necessarily has so much to do with their fans being disappointed with the new album but that it just hit such a different set of musical pressure points that the difference might have been a bit too jarring for their more casual fans.
Over time the desire to shun easy classification can blunt creativity, and after a while, you imagine that being a permanently innovating outsider must start to feel exhausting. A long established band who doesn’t know their next musical move, carries an almost weightier burden than one that is expected to pump out the same, safe, well wrung material year after year. Constantly reaching for sonic innovation, ever since their inception almost two decades ago, San Francisco natives Deerhoof have had a determination to follow the path less traveled which has seen them maintain a self acknowledged unpredictability above the considerations of convention.
Eighteen years since their first baby steps as a band, Deerhoof honour Aaliyah by confirming that age ain’t nothing but a number. The quartet are pretty much middle-aged now, but still manage to condense the world into compact cubes of art-pop-prog surrealism with a childishly pure air. Despite their 11th album’s title, ‘Breakup Song’, it’s no emo mope: there are two songs about flowers, and Satomi Matsuzaki sings like someone thrilled with each new day’s fresh possibilities.
By now, you’d think that Deerhoof were beginning to experience some fatigue after taking a new approach with every record they’ve put out for over fifteen years. As far as creativity goes, the San Francisco foursome has never felt any opposing threat except their very own, constantly immersing themselves in the irrational and vying against conventionalism, their biggest and only nemesis. Or so they’ve lead many to think – as heretical as they may seem, they’ve undertaken the challenge to diversify with such discipline that, in truth, it has only magnified their eccentricities.
Deerhoof defy categorization and instead invite cliché-ridden descriptors and excessive qualifiers. As the years have passed, the San Francisco band’s discography has grown more diverse, as have the adjectives used to describe their sound — brainy, pleasantly abrasive, appallingly abrasive, eccentric, addicting. While their early records garnered a great deal of mileage out of the contrast between the squelching bouts of noise and usually-bassist Satomi Matsuzaki’s silvery, high-pitched voice, they have increasingly melded these two elements into something weirder and more cohesive, and in the process, Deerhoof have created an identity for themselves that is at once immediately identifiable and impossible to properly pin down.
Over the course of their ten previous albums, Deerhoof wrote more songs about milkmen and dogs than falling in, or out, of love, but Breakup Song evens the score a little bit. In true Deerhoof fashion, though, this album is less about moping -- the title track even has "hell yeah" in the chorus -- and more about relationships, and songs, falling apart into exciting new forms. The band takes the album's name quite literally on a musical level; nearly every track is rife with jagged textures and jarring contrasts.
Deerhoof has something of an aluminum musical identity; it’s both incredibly strong and incredibly malleable. With their latest offering, Breakup Song, the quartet have melted down their most basic elements—Satomi Matsuzaki's knack for saccharine melody, Greg Saunier's intricate drum work, and the spindly unpredictable guitar duels of Dieterich and Rodriguez—and poured them into various musical molds. What we get is 14 songs shaped by a diverse range of genres and piled high with stylistic pastiches.
With every successive album, it becomes clearer that Deerhoof just do whatever they feel like doing. They’re not caving to expectations, playing to genres, or running with a set of strict rules. Their albums feel instinctual, and that’s not just because of Satomi Matsuzaki’s childlike vocals: whether its interlocking guitar shredding or cathartic drum pounding that fuses jazz dexterity with metal intensity, four musicians who have been playing together for a decade and a half naturally have that kind of chemistry.
Deerhoof have put so much blood and sweat into not repeating themselves, it's become part of their DNA. They labor to sound fresh not just from album to album or track to track, but within songs, measures, and even from one note to another. When I first heard the title Breakup Song, I guessed that it might refer not to the end of a relationship, but to the band's relentless drive to fracture its tunes-- to chop hooks and split beats in hopes of dodging expectations.
If albums were judged on song titles alone, ‘Breakup Song’ is an instant classic. ‘Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III’ and ‘Mothball The Fleet’ bring to mind fractal, fractured, fluorescent pop, full of idiosyncrasies and iridescent intricacies. Luckily for the San Francisco-via-Tokyo four-piece, this happens to be the case. In fact, ‘Breakup Song’ is the definitive Deerhoof album thus far, a joyful celebration of demented noise-pop.The band’s eleventh album in fifteen years comes after an eighteen month gap since they successfully defeated the netherworld on 2011’s ‘Deerhoof vs Evil’.
The quartet’s 11th album makes a breakup sound like the most fun you could possibly have Jude Clarke 2012 Despite the title, Breakup Song is no sombre lament for lost love. This Japanese/American quartet has always brought an irreverent approach to their music making, and this 11th album follows suit. This joyous noise and pandemonium evokes more the excitement of that first flush of romance than the heartbreak of its ending.
With music as strange as Deerhoof's – cut-up freak pop made of skittering electronics, over-excited guitars, and unconventional singing – inanity threatens, but on its 11th studio disc, San Francisco's noisy electro crew finds a sweet spot both weird and inspiring. Sucker punch tempo changes and disorienting stereo panning skew the distinction between a party record and art LP, so when they chop a tango into sunshine pop on "The Trouble with Candyhands" and ride a fuzzed-out beat on "We Do Parties," it's hard detecting where instruments end and computers begin. Standout "Flower" lulls with repetitive, minor tones before pulling the rug out from under you with a bright, catchy refrain of "Let it go, leave it all behind.
“We've been called a lot of things, as you know. But pop has always marked the spot on the Deerhoof treasure map … We’ve just finished a sensational record of Cuban-flavored party-noise-energy music.” So goes drummer Greg Saunier’s prologue to Deerhoof’s 11th album, Breakup Song. However, while governed by a pop sensibility that’s underpinned by John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez’s sugar-coated guitar hooks and Satomi Matsuzaki’s fragile, child-like vocals, the San Francisco quartet remain one of indie rock’s most willing outliers.