Thursday, January 20, 2011

Deerhoof VS Evil - Deerhoof

Deerhoof VS Evil

Polyvinyl Records.

SCQ Rating: 79%

Even amid their most successful releases – Runners Four and Friend Opportunity both spring to mind - Deerhoof have reigned but a marginalized fraction of the indie-rock throne, attaining no shortage of good press but a fickle fanbase. Why that is likely breaks down to every obvious suspicion we’ve assumed playing their parts; Satomi Matsuzaki’s cute-when-rationed vocals, the band’s playful teasing with commercial templates – these obstinate traits come to mind anytime an album (cough, Offend Maggie) comes and goes with virtually no worthwhile mention to speak of. For sixteen years now, Deerhoof have welcomed a diverse crowd of fans both casual and curious to dance along their weirdo-fringe and it’s no surprise that, on a release-by-release basis, scores of them fall indifferently by the wayside.

From a single spin, Deerhoof VS Evil looks to bolster and register that fickle public until at least the next full-length. They’ve abandoned San Francisco and “what a Deerhoof record sounds like” but rumbling deep from within a forest of drum-edits and twee-leaning harmonics, ‘Qui Dorm, Nomes Somia’ bursts forward like Deerhoof 3-D; their hooks more digestibly defined, their impatient tempo-shifts finessed but punctuated with a volume befitting of college radio. Rarely have verse and chorus been as identifiable and concrete as on ‘Behold a Marvel In the Darkness’, nevermind how Matsuzaki’s sweet vocals bait a ferocious, distortion-filled riff that while central to the song, never gets old. Credit Deerhoof with some serious production props: Greg Saunier’s dexterity behind the kit, already imposing over many of these tracks, has an added depth to it, while miniscule embellishments like the starlit synths keeping ‘Hey I Can’ airborne, leave little room for boredom.

Is there weirdness, though? You bet there is, only this time it’s less divisive than on past efforts. Aimless but brief ambles ‘C’Moon’ like a practicing improvisation, but these intermezzos link naturally to their always appealing neighbour (what would ‘Let’s Dance the Jet’ be independent from its half-second-detached highlight ‘Super Duper Rescue Heads!’…). So easily and repeatedly consumable, Deerhoof VS Evil should offer pause after all of the praise Friend Opportunity received for being so pop-oriented and accessible. This is the band’s liberation-point, a maturing moment where they’re able to pull the mainstream tablecloth toward them without breaking anything. A fleeting dose of indie-rock spiked with dream-pop, this battle against Evil finds Deerhoof fighting the good fight.

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