Posted on March 25th, 2011 (12:44 pm) by Joseph Bogen

When I first heard of Deerhoof in 2002, they were still a relatively unknown band. The show would not have been on my radar if the Austin band Knife in the Water was not headlining, and I probably would not have arrived early if not for the girl who told me that a burned out, middle-aged hippie claimed Deerhoof put on a good show. At the time, it seemed like a strong endorsement. Unfortunately, Deerhoof managed to get lost on the way to Austin, and the venue eventually gave up on them, cancelled their performance and issued a refund. This thinned the already sparse audience by about a dozen people. And of course, just after the last of their fans had departed, the band made it to the venue, rushed their set-up and played a blistering fifteen-minute set.

Since then, Deerhoof has become one of Kill Rock Stars’ most successful acts, filling substantially larger venues . While Deerhoof’s sound becomes more accessible and less chaotic, for me, that show will always characterize this group. Their music is defined by brevity and a simultaneous ability to take their music to wonderful places while refusing to follow any predictable path. Even if their approach appears to have softened further on Deerhoof v. Evil, the trend continues. Right from the beginning, Deerhoof demonstrate their ability to keep listeners off balance while still sucking them in. “Qui Dorm, Nome’s Somia” opens with a lighthearted tune and shifts melodies twice before the singing starts. This could be a pop song if they just focused; instead, it’s something much more fun. By the end of its three minutes, the chaos finally centers around a shimmering, enchanting melody.

“Behold a Marvel in the Darkness” starts off as a light-hearted pop song with a simple repeated vocal refrain of “look into the sky.” What’s not surprising is the song’s shift in rhythm and melody, but that it becomes something even more catchy and enjoyable. If Deerhoof wanted to, they could deliver endless hours of pristine pop music, but apparently that bores this group. With its uneven rhythm and jagged guitars, “The Merry Barracks” seems to take Deerhoof back to more familiar territory, but even here, a strong sense of melody shines through. When the maracas and acoustic guitar-driven “No One Asked Us to Dance” follows, it’s clear that Deerhoof has firmly left behind their noisy roots.

In typical Deerhoof fashion, many of their most enjoyable moments are fleeting. “Let’s Dance to the Jet” is a piece of danceable pop music that feels too short at a minute and thirty-seven seconds. But then the band surprises again with “Super Duper Rescue Heads!”, a song that briefly loses its pop perfection, only to let it resurface. But the band’s most directly enjoyable song has to be “Secret Mobilization”, which rocks more steadily than almost anything I’ve heard from this group. It starts with a blues-based groove, and before things get too comfortable, shifts gears and grows temporarily calmer and sweeter only to set up for the final explosion at the end.

Not every track on here connects. The album probably would have benefited if “Almost Everyone Almost Always” had been left off of the end, and “Hey I Can” and “Must Fight Current” are both too busy to make any sort of melodic connection. Ultimately, my one complaint about Deerhoof it is that their music is almost always intriguing and enjoyable, yet rarely compelling. Nearly a decade after first hearing them, I still can’t think of any song that stands out, and except for that first show where the band was rushed to do what they could so that the night wouldn’t be wasted, I never feel like there’s much at stake in a Deerhoof performance. But that’s also what makes this band stand out. When too many musicians consider every performance a public baring of their tortured souls, it’s nice to listen to music for nothing beyond its own inherent joy.

Track List:
1. Qui Dorm, Només Somia
2. Behold a Marvel in the Darkness
3. The Merry Barracks
4. No One Asked to Dance
5. Let's Dance the Jet
6. Super Duper Rescue Heads!
7. Must Fight Current
8. Secret Mobilization
9. Hey I Can
10. C'Moon
11. I Did Crimes for You
12. Almost Everyone, Almost Always

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Our Rating

79 / 100
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