Music

Deerhoof: Deerhoof Vs. Evil

This is the Deerhoof we've all come to expect: provocative, infectious and characteristically unpredictable.


Deerhoof

Deerhoof Vs. Evil

Label: Polyvinyl
US Release Date: 2011-01-25
UK Release Date: 2011-01-31
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Deerhoof are at the point in a band's career when critics can't help but review the band itself just as much as any particular release. The group has been producing albums steadily since 1997. Multiple members have come and gone, including co-founder Rob Fisk. Most importantly, Deerhoof have gradually consolidated their chaotic, confrontational sound into something more recognizable -- if only because that something is, by now, so obviously and familiarly Deerhoof.

Deerhoof Vs. Evil is the group's 10th studio album. Like 2008's Offend Maggie and 2007's Friend Opportunity, it finds the band more at home with their established sound than the release before. That's not to say that they've stagnated. As Henry Rollins said of the band in a 2008 interview with Paste Magazine, Deerhoof are so impressive precisely because "[t]hey do a thing and they keep reinventing the thing".

So what is that 'thing'? Deerhoof excel at a kind of off-kilter, experimental kitsch. Their songs frequently confound expectations or invert the conventions of form and affectation. You might even recognize a riff or a phrase from some wholly unrelated and, in fact, incongruous area of life or music. In other words, the typical Deerhoof album is unpredictable. In that sense, Deerhoof Vs. Evil is about what you would expect.

There's the ceaseless shifting of one configuration to another, as when the unassuming plunking of the introduction gives way to a cacophony of ascending guitars and percussion, only to slide into a solemn, plodding vocal melody on "Qui Dorm, Només Somia". There's the overblown ecstacy of the band's not-infrequent, riff-driven catharses, as when distorted guitar drowns the helicopter synths and curiously ass-shaking bass with righteous, monolithic fury on "Super Duper Rescue Heads!". And there's the group's ever-strange lyrics, delivered with unflinching earnesty by Satomi Matsuzaki in a surreal soprano. She sings on "I Did Crimes for You", "This is a stickup / Smash the windows / The people are wrong / The leader is strong."

This mixture of the serious and the facetious makes for a music that peaks and plummets at will. Deerhoof love to play with their audience. Perhaps that's part of the reason they've been so creative with their promotions for the last couple releases, offering sheet music for the single "Fresh Born" from Offend Maggie for fan interpretations before the album's release and streaming Deerhoof Vs. Evil one track at a time in a "Global Album Leak" at different music sites around the world.

When the band falters, it's because their rapport with the listener has been broken. You might have missed the wink before the jab in the ribs, or be too jacked up from the last rally cry to comply in some absent-minded tinkering. Always, though, you're lured back in by the typically unexpected beauty of a vocal line or the disarming simplicity of a guitar riff. Sometimes it's even the misplaced déjà vu of a lyric, as when Matsuzaki breaks into the refrain on "Behold a Marvel in the Darkness": "What is this thing called love?" she sings, and the guitars stage a blaring, joyous counterpoint in response.

The chief shift to be marked on Deerhoof Vs. Evil from the rest of the band's discography is the sonic palette, which is darker -- more digital than Friend Opportunity and less spare than Offend Maggie -- and perhaps more picturesque than what they've done before. It's a move still further in the more orchestral direction they've gone since 2005's The Runners Four. The picked guitars, synthesizers, and organs that weave in and out of Deerhoof Vs. Evil could all be marshaled to attest. Basically, though, this is the Deerhoof album we've all come to expect: provocative, infectious and characteristically unpredictable.

7

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image