Are we supposed to give points for trying? Because these people seem to be doing their best. They take a basic late ‘70s New Age instrumental line-up of bass, guitar, drums, and keyboards and then make a lot of noise with it. It’s almost as if they are accidentally achieving the gloriously awful amateurishness of garage bands everywhere, but they keep repeating the same cacaphonous strategies over and over, so you know that it’s no accident. Then the vocals, which are often mixed too low, go wandering into a weird, warbly, keening register that kind of sounds offkey to you unless you know how much you have to practice to sound this unpracticed and you start wondering if you might not be listening to music majors putting some sort of theory to work. It’s very dissonant, but in a Professional Entertainer of the Nineties way, so you know they exerted a great deal of effort to sound this cruddy.
Kill Rock Stars puts out some swell stuff like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney, true alternatives to alternative now that alternative is mainstream. But Deerhoof doesn’t sound like a band that you would drive 40 miles on country roads to hear. They sound more like a group of local favorites who take the stage at around 4:00 a.m. when the only people left in the audience are college kids and other bourgeois who don’t have to get up in the morning and work. Which is great in a way—Deerhoof, and any other minor band may luck into being the Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World on any given night—but then again, you know, maybe, maybe not, whatever.
// Notes from the Road
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