With 18 years of practice, Deerhoof continues to develop a sound uniquely their own amongst an onslaught of bands racing to catch up. With artist such as Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, The Flaming Lips, and TV On The Radio all citing Deerhoof as an influence on their sound, it’s hard to believe that you might not have heard of the band before, but with 15 years now between them and the release of their debut full-length — My Man, My King, My Girl — Deerhoof is one of the leading pioneers of modern pop psych rock, constantly growing, expanding, and reinventing their sound from album to album.
I first discovered the band only 5 years ago with the release of their 9th full length, Friend Opportunity. I was in college and like most kids going to a school whose main focus was music and entertainment-related things, I was always on the lookout for new and intriguing bands. When I first heard Friend Opportunity, it was almost like a revelation from the music gods. “Pop music is SAVED!” I thought to myself. Here was a band that so effortlessly mixed a variety of different popular styles of music that it could only be described as “avant garde” by most. From punk, to post rock, to heavy metal, to EDM, Deerhoof has sampled them all, and with the release of their latest album, Breakup Song (09/04/12), it doesn’t appear as though the group plans to stop experimenting with various genres of popular music any time soon.
Breakup Song starts off with the jarring title track during which massively distorted electronic sounds warble through the speakers while Satomi Matsuzaki’s bright, airy vocals reverberate over the top of the melodic embellishments, setting the tone for yet another beautifully bizarre album. “There’s That Grin” shifts tonality immediately from the opening note. The song has an instant dance-ability and fills you with a sense of fun before the first four measures are even completed.
Before you know it, horns are blasting, electronics are squealing, and you are lead into “Bad Kids to the Front,” which has an odd, worldly EDM vibe. The drumbeat shuffles on the hi-hat, and the synths sound like a glorious robot meltdown. Beeps, boops, chimes, and a surprisingly normal fat-bottom bass line carry you through the song, which seems focused mostly on creating a trance layered version of what I can only describe as a future city during rush hour.
“Zero Seconds Pause” starts off with an electro-boogie feel (think “Planet Rock”) only to transition into a funky carioca progression just measures later. Not to be outdone by the constant swapping of musical genres from earlier songs, “Mothball the Fleet” does not break the pattern the rest of Breakup Song has set. The strum of what sounds like an electronic guqin rings out over a jostling drumbeat. The track only takes a break from the chaos every now and again for the strum of a guitar before ending with a soul-filled vocal by Matsuzaki and a piano line that once again changes the entire dynamic of the song.
Unrelenting in its focus to be ever-evolving, the album’s 6th track, “Flower,” once again creates an entirely different world from the rest of Breakup Song. An electric organ and other unidentified synths chase each other up and down scales, gallivanting around a swinging, jazz-filled drum and bass line. The song culminates with a quirky, pop-filled indie rock vibe that leaves you wondering how many more genres Deerhoof could possibly squeeze into one album. The answer is apparently a lot.
“To Fly or Not to Fly” starts off with a staunch EDM vibe, that sort of building synth wave that has become popular with a lot of the dubstep groups of the day, only to then blend into some demonic, industrial metal-inspired German techno machine before you can even break out your glow-in-the-dark body paint. Besides having a very amusing name, “The Trouble with Candyhands” is also probably my favorite track off Breakup Song. With a versatile surf-rock sound, it fades in and out of a big band jazz feel, blending the two genres in a way I have never heard before nor previously thought possible.
Ending the album is another of one my favorites, “Fete d’Adieu.” This track is probably as close as Deerhoof comes to conforming to the style of past albums. With its smooth, laid-back guitar progression accompanied by soft, poppy chanting vocals, the song transports me to a cartoon-like world, and it’s a well-deserved break from the multi-genre stylings of the previous songs featured on Breakup Song. Altogether, it’s a very powerful ending track for the album.
What Deerhoof has done with Breakup Song is shove, cram, force, kick, and punch their way through so many genres that at times the average music listener’s head may spin just trying to keep up with one song, let alone sit through the entire album. The end result is 30 minutes of the most inspirational works of art this decade has seen. Whether you like some of the genres Deerhoof has covered in Breakup Song or not, the pure talent necessary to mold so many together demands respect. I would suggest this album to anyone looking to expand their musical palate and experience a general upheaval of what they thought music is or should be.
Deerhoof is currently on tour supporting Breakup Song with dates from now until early December. Make sure to check them out when they play the Echoplex in LA because I assure you, they are another experience live.
Deerhoof Tour Dates:
09/17 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg* #
09/18 – Cambridge, MA – The Middle East * #
09/19 – Montreal, Canada – Pop Montreal @ Cabaret Du Mile End * #
09/21 – Lexington, KY – Boomslang Fest @ Cosmic Charlie’s
09/22 – Chicago, IL – Schuba’s * #
09/23 – Minneapolis, MN – Mill City Nights * #
09/24 – Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room % #
09/25 – Denver, CO – Hi Dive % #
09/27 – Garden City, ID – Visual Arts Collective % #
09/28 – Seattle, WA – The Vera Project % #
09/29 – Portland, OR – Branx % #
09/30 – Arcata, CA – The Depot @ Humboldt State University % #
10/01 – San Francisco, CA – Slim’s % #
10/02 – Los Angeles, CA – Echoplex % #
10/13 – Tokyo, Japan – Shibuya O-EAST
11/03 – Dallas, TX – Prophet Bar $
11/04 – Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/05 – Houston, TX – Walters
11/06 – Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon
11/07 – Mobile, AL- Alabama Music Box
11/08 – Tallahassee, FL – Club Downunder
11/09 – Orlando, FL – Accidental Music Festival @ The Plaza Live
11/10 – Athens, GA – 40 Watt Club
11/12 – Richmond, VA – The National
11/13 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
11/21 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Loppen
11/22 – Berlin, Germany – Festsaal Kreuzberg
11/23 – Oslo, Norway – Blaa
11/24 – Stockholm, Sweden – Strand
11/28 – Lyon, France – Le Marche Gare
11/29 – Paris, France – Le Divan du Monde
11/30 – Utrecht, Netherlands – Le Guess Who Festival
12/01 – Brussels, Belgium – Autumn Falls Festival
12/09 – Camber, United Kingdom – Camber Sands Holiday Camp (All Tomorrow’s Parties)
# w/ Buke and Gas
* w/ Merel
% w/ Raleigh Moncrief
$ w/ Formica Man, Skating Polly
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