Captured live in Japan in the dimming days of 2014, this package from the ever-reliable Deerhoof doesn’t disappoint. The band’s live performances are a powerful punch of manic energy, moving by with a power and dedication to surprise that leaves the listener/viewer completely unsure of what’s happened. That of course isn’t entirely unlike one of the many albums the quartet has issued over the last two decades. How many bands consistently deliver 30-minute records that feel beyond complete? How many other bands are Deerhoof?
Anyway, the band was supporting the release La Isla Bonita at the time this recording was made and that album’s represented with a few cuts, including “Paradise Girls”, which sits between a jaw-dropping reading of “Exit Only” and a career-defining take on “Let’s Dance the Jet”. The latter is powerful enough that you have to wonder how the band summoned energy to make it through the rest of the set. It has everything: Rhythms that seem both smart and accidental, harmonic and melodic passages that are both dissonant and sublime, a structure albeit a structure that seems in danger of falling apart at any moment, an end point but one which no one really seems to be aware of until the whole thing collapses and gives way to “Doom”, another Bonita track that finds the band’s avant edge as sharp as its uncompromising sense of strong hooks.
“We Do Parties”, arriving at the halfway mark, breathes like it has never breathed before and one suspects that sparks might soon shoot from their music listening device if one is not careful. Or even if one is. “Dummy Discards a Heart” (this writer’s personal favorite Deerhoof track) is as abrasive as you could want it to be, rendered with both the recklessness and care that make the live arena the best place to be when everything’s working correctly.
Others, such as “I Did Crimes for You” and “Fresh Born” seem not only to get a new lease on life here, but also make us wonder why we didn’t pay more attention to them the first time around. These are great slices of Deerfhoof that have been waiting for listeners like us to discover them, just lurking there somewhere in the grooves of this album or that. And hearing them here, as if for the first time, is one of the best gifts this band could have given its fans.
The live-ness of the whole record includes the sense that, as it winds to a close, the listener is as spent as the band, determined to go one living even if one is not sure how. In fact, the hours and days after listening you might get the sense that your ears are ringing just as they might ring after you’ve stood too close to the action at a crowded, sweaty club where shows like this go down often but rarely with this kind of promise or intensity. That is the kind of ringing we rock fans crave. It is freedom. Let freedom ring.