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Deerhoof – Breakup Song September 4, 2012

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music.
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Artist: Deerhoof

Album: Breakup Song

Release: Polyvinyl, 2012

Genre: Experimental

RIYD: noise jingles for parties

“Breakup Song” is an extremely fitting title for the new Deerhoof record (though let’s all keep our fingers crossed that it’s not the literal end of the group) not only because of the signature quirky use of improper English (using the singular to refer to a collection of songs) but also because of the apocalyptic feel of the album. Deerhoof have always been a band to experiment with various influences, instruments, and musical styles, but here they sound as if they gathered up exotic instruments from all corners of the Earth into one place and dropped an atomic bomb on the whole thing, exploding bits and pieces of melodies and sonic experiments in all directions at once. Satomi’s sweet melodies playfully dance around the rhythmic din of sharp guitar stabs, erratic percussion, and harsh synthesizer bursts, resulting in an aesthetic even noisier and more chaotic than 2007’s Friend Opportunity or last year’s Deerhoof vs. Evil could have ever predated. As usual, Deerhoof eschew forward progress by sidestepping the direction those albums have been hinting at, and though certain family lineage could be traced between songs like “There’s That Grin” and “Kidz Are So Small” or the semi-titular track “Breakup Songs” (again note the misuse of plural) and “The Merry Barracks” or even the track “Flower” and the OTHER Deerhoof song “Flower” (off of 2005’s Apple O’), there are no good words to describe Breakup Song besides “completely and utterly bizarre”.

Even more appropriate, however, are Deerhoof’s own words. The tag-line on the sticker slapped onto that beautiful, blurry image of a garbage truck that is the inexplicable album cover describes the songs as “noise jingles for parties”: I don’t know what kind of parties Deerhoof have been going to, but I doubt this is the first album I’d think to put on at my housewarming get-together a few weeks from now. And yet, the phrase matches the tone of the album almost too well. These little ditties are definitely noisy, are often comprised of multiple “jingles” stitched together haphazardly, and in spite of themselves are actually surprisingly danceable. I can’t help but bounce my head along to the bumpin’ “There’s That Grin” or wiggle my hips in my chair to “Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III”, and Deerhoof’s playful energy pulses and overflows throughout the album’s short 31-minute runtime.

A certain online media critic described last year’s instant classic Deerhoof vs. Evil as a “transitional album”, but made no attempt as to identify what the band was transitioning from or toward. What that reviewer failed to understand is that Deerhoof’s identity is based around flux, i.e., that none of their albums can be called a transitional album because every single one is transitional. Each album stands apart from those that precede and those that follow, all the while struggling to contain more musical ideas than most contemporaries have in their entire discographies. Though Deerhoof fans should be well aware of this by now (it being their 11th full-length in their 15-year career), Breakup Song provides further evidence (by knocking the listener over the head with it) to the group’s tremendous abundance of creative ideas. The fact that their rather intense ADD prevents them from sticking to one and developing it to its full potential is not a weakness but one of their greatest strengths.

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1. The Top 20 Musical Releases of 2012 « safer in the dark - December 19, 2012

[…] Well done, Deerhoof. In a year full of let-downs, missteps, and mixed bags, you’ve delivered a cohesive and consistent album of canon-defining material, 11+ albums into your career. Keep on […]


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