Release Date: Jan 25, 2011
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
The song starts with lurching effects and percussion before segueing from riotous soca to lugubrious funk to what sounds like drunkard's take on Cuban son. The lyrics are in Catalan. The singer is Japanese. Yep—it's Deerhoof. "Qui Dorm, Només Somia," the curtain-raiser on the San Francisco art ….
The future is now, or… the completeness of opposing forces Deerhoof never ceases to amaze. The band strikes a near-perfect balance between oddball accessibility and brazenly challenging their listeners to accept new and jarring sounds. The key word here is balance, between opposing forces: the past and the future, the human and the mechanical, the male and the female, the composed and the improvised, the crystalline and the obscured, the assonant and the dissonant.
Deerhoof may be the most volatile rock band working today. If you can look past the sharp angles and rabbit holes of their sound, there's a brute force at work that most bands dealing in much simpler compositions can't achieve. Their combination of intricacy and power -- at its biggest and best on 2008's Offend Maggie -- is something they honed to a deep-cutting edge over their last three records.
Satomi Matsuzaki sounds like a child absent-mindedly singing made-up songs in the back seat on a long car journey. I bet she pissed her parents right off. To anyone familiar with Deerhoof it’s easy to forget quite how wacky their primary singer comes off, and vocals tend to make or break music to new listeners more than anyone would care to admit.
Deerhoof faked me out when I saw them play in Chicago last year. After the band had taken the stage, when Greg Saunier raised his drumsticks high above his kit, I thought he was going to start the show by striking the cymbals really hard. But he didn’t. The set opened with “Fresh Born,” which starts quietly and goes through a few barely related louder sections before reaching a roaring climax at the end.
Deerhoof previewed Deerhoof vs. Evil by leaking the album one track at a time to websites all over the world -- a quirky and confident move, as well as a very Deerhoof one: though the acclaim surrounding the band has grown with virtually every album, Deerhoof haven’t sacrificed any of their avant-garde leanings for their high profile. The band returns, two and a half years after the all-encompassing Offend Maggie!, with its weirdest, poppiest, and most concise set of songs since Friend Opportunity -- it’s almost as if Deerhoof used that time to whittle the album down to only the most striking and catchiest bits.
Deerhoof are at the point in a band’s career when critics can’t help but review the band itself just as much as any particular release. The group has been producing albums steadily since 1997. Multiple members have come and gone, including co-founder Rob Fisk. Most importantly, Deerhoof have gradually consolidated their chaotic, confrontational sound into something more recognizable—if only because that something is, by now, so obviously and familiarly Deerhoof.
A Deerhoof album that's just different enough, and just enough the same If Major Gowen from Fawlty Towers had experienced Deerhoof, he would unquestionably describe them as “damned inscrutable fellows” and the BBC would have internal meetings about whether this was now too politically incorrect to broadcast. Their songs, while essentially playful and lovable – more so than ever on ‘Vs Evil’, the San Francisco band’s 10th album, which features near-lounge music moments – have a hard centre and are often tricky to parse, thanks in no small part to Satomi Matsuzaki’s lyrics. This, along with the gently jarring chord-tangles throughout these 12 songs, makes for a Deerhoof album that’s just different enough, and just enough the same.
Deerhoof's drummer Greg Saunier recently noted that "if there's any pressure on us, it's actually a pressure to not repeat." That's an admirable goal, and so far they've mostly stuck with it. They've spent most of their career as a fast-and-bulbous hybrid of a super-heavy, experimentation-minded art-rock band and a sweet little pop group, equal parts chirp and pummel. In the six-album-plus run from 2002's Reveille to 2008's Offend Maggie, they perpetually pushed the sound of the band into fresh if occasionally awkward territory.
There's no question that Deerhoof is an inimitable, delightful and unstoppable record-churning force in the music industry. Constantly developing without straying from their signature sound, a paradoxical combination of inaccessible quirkiness and earworm-inducing hooks, the San Francisco foursome has developed an impressive discography over the years. With the switch over to Polyvinyl from Kill Rock Stars, I expected a new direction, maybe something more heavily produced or just a slightly different approach to the usual instantly recognizable twee.
The now 11-album veterans of Deerhoof have become such an insular, unique, exciting audible package that it’s impossible to recognize their sound as anything but. This is all true, despite their conscious, perpetual drive to keep things changing, to keep from stagnating, yet polishing and refining aspects of their sound to a diamond perfection. Bassist/vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki may be the most immediately recognizable aspect of the band (her child-like, almost language-less vocals are particularly hers), but drummer Greg Saunier’s idiosyncratic, thumping rhythms, and the essentially dueling, math-y guitars of Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich are equally essential to the mix.
Frisco indie-lings [a]Deerhoof[/a] certainly have form in the ‘sticking it to convention’ stakes, and that form spans three decades and far too many different identities than is really safe to contemplate. So it’s little surprise that for their next trick, as they find the artists they’ve influenced ([a]Sleigh Bells[/a], [a]Grizzly Bear[/a] et al) at the top of indie’s cred-tree, they’re going all out to save the world.At least that seems to be one of the few immediately obvious things about this awkward, occasionally lovely record. For one, there’s that ‘who wants a go?’ title.
Deerhoof This endearingly odd post-punk band has always made the most of incongruity, framing the girly-sweet singing of its bassist, Satomi Matsuzaki, against a crashing cacophony of guitar riffs and the slipperiest sort of rock drumming. “Deerhoof vs. Evil,” being released on Polyvinyl on ….
Doing things their own way for 10 albums, Deerhoof’s latest is typically eccentric. Reef Younis 2011 After 16 years and 10 albums, Deerhoof have never quite found their rhythm; settled into a neat, niche little groove; consolidated to the point where they could turn and churn out a few more identikit tracks and casually count the pennies trickle in. The fluid, fragmented line-up of those pervading years certainly contributed to the groundswells of bold creativity and skittering innovation that’s characterised Deerhoof’s busy output, and for a band cited and credited by a modern wave of celebrated acts – see Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear etc – the plaudits have always largely been deserved, if measured.
The one remaining constant in all of Deerhoof’s music is their unfailing ability in making tremendously stunning music with each and every album. Their sound is best described as experimental because of their multitude of styles and more so, their sometimes polarizing take on rock music. And although they’ve been one of the better bands in music for the past ten years, they always tended to be overlooked.
In the absence of a Venn diagram, let's agree that Deerhoof has become a generational anomaly. The aesthetic intersections between 2007's pop-oriented Friend Opportunity, 2004's trout-mask-sniffing Milk Man, and the noise hopscotch of 2002's Reveille make for a frustrating listen. Deerhoof vs Evil, the San Francisco quartet's 10th disc and first for Polyvinyl, leads with a left hook ("Qui Dorm, Només Somia") into the warped right brain of "Behold a Marvel in the Darkness," so that familiar uneasiness creeps in.