Reviews

Deerhoof + Need New Body + Jukeboxer

Peter Joseph

Post-election performance commands post-partisan coverage. Meanwhile, Deerhoof remain pleasantly venereal.

Deerhoof + Need New Body + Jukeboxer

Deerhoof + Need New Body + Jukeboxer

City: New York
Venue: Knitting Factory
Date: 2004-11-03

Deerhoof
On the day after the election, I made a promise to myself. Sure, I might be depressed about Bush's victory, but I wouldn't dwell on it. It's still possible to go see some bands play a little rock 'n' roll and write about it. I have to commit myself to writing a music review, and not just using this little corner of the web as my own private soapbox. Sure, my faith in my fellow Americans might have died last night, but what better band than Deerhoof to appear at the wake? The first of two opening acts, Jukeboxer, channeled classic madrigals and ballads through '70s psychedelia in the same solemn, hypnotic way as Nico. Their largely instrumental sound has a filmic quality, though only of the small-screen variety. Their compositions aren't of the sleek, vivid, car commercial class but instead hover in the realm of inoffensive, banal ads for allergy medication. To put it simply: they're network, not cable. The quintet tries to mix it up, introducing acoustic guitar, banjo, cello and some type of electric flute to several of their songs. Unfortunately their versatility yields so little that these forays seem inspired more by gimmick than artistic vision. The audience response, however, is surprisingly strong for an opening act; so what do I know? I guess that lots of people like this bland, reassuring sort of rhetoric, the kind that seems familiar the first time you hear it. The only thing I can't be sure of is how many of the Jukeboxer fans voted for Bush the day before. Er, sorry. That sort of just slipped out. I'm not dwelling, I swear. Jukeboxer was followed by Need New Body, a band so enveloped in its own outlandish aesthetic that it runs the risk of being taken for a joke. The band members succeeded in capturing the madcap intensity that Jukeboxer missed. They always seem just as surprised and exhilarated by the directions their music goes in as the rest of us, and the awed audience tried desperately to keep dancing to despite constantly changing beats and patchwork vamps. The band members have the haggard, sallow faces and scraggly beards of 19th century sodbusters, and the singers speak in tongues and exhort their audience as if we were attending a nineteenth century tent revival. Of course, there's little irony left in fervid evangelism today, as it sweeps the nation and shapes the national debate. Need New Body's members might look like they came out of the 19th century, but many citizens still living out there on the Great Plains genuinely want to go back to it. My prediction for the hot topic of the 2008 election: the Mann Act. There's nothing like a good white slavery scare to bring out the voters. OK, I give up. The biggest question in the wake of the presidential election isn't whether Need New Body evokes the spirit of Sun Ra or is just a bunch of hippies who suck at jamming. There are more important aspects of American culture that need to be examined tonight. I may be depressed that the Democrats lost, but how am I ever going to learn anything about how that other, much larger half lives if I stay here in the Knitting Factory surrounded by liberals (though I'm still not entirely sure about those Jukeboxer kids). While I stare at this tiny stage and ponder the intricacies of Deerhoof's amazing guitar work -- which might best be described in the same terms as I describe some venereal diseases: blistering and catchy -- there are millions of people outside New York listening not to an album called Milk Man but to... what? What are they listening to? Frankly, I don't know. This is the type of question that liberal music critics need to start asking. What is President Bush's favorite song? Is it "Louie Louie?" Who's his favorite Beatle? Does he really think Ashcroft has a good voice? The study of outcasts, rather than the mainstream, dominates music criticism. These days, subcultures and musical subgenres are created in the lab and are hardly ever exposed to the outside world. If they were, they would inevitably die small, insignificant deaths in front of a crowd of uncaring citizens who still like the ABACAB song structure and fear terror attacks, who wear cowboy boots un-ironically and like country music even when there isn't an "alt-" in front of it. We need to find these people. We need to learn about what music they like and why they like it. We need to hunt them down at their homes and trailers and deliver to their doorsteps exactly what it is that they deserve. Oh right, Deerhoof was really, um, blistering. And catchy. Those seeking less-partisan Deerhoof coverage would do well to click here.

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