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Review: Deerhoof - Deerhoof vs. Evil

27th January 2011

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Ten albums down and still the undisputed masters of a most alternative breed of rock, Deerhoof have produced their most cohesive work to date. Following 2008’s Offend Maggie, Deerhoof vs. Evil sees the band plucking from the air a variety of timbres, moods and lyrical motifs, bound together with considerable aplomb.

Deerhoof vs. EvilFront-woman Satomi Matsuzaki’s nonchalant vocals remain a defining feature, simultaneously spewing forth a stream of gibberish and asking life’s most pressing questions, namely “What is this thing called love?” on ‘Behold a Marvel in the Darkness’ (though perhaps sung without that same sincerity as Cole Porter). It is with such naïve, cutesy delivery amongst a patchwork of synth bleeps and math-like guitar figures that adds a comfortable sense of ambiguity, as present on engaging album opener, ‘Qui Dorm, Només Somia’, sung entirely in Catalan.

But nowhere do Deerhoof come across more appealing than on lead single, ‘The Merry Barracks’. Drums clatter, basslines argue and time signatures fluctuate without warning to such an extent, it often feels as if the entire ensemble is on the brink of collapse - it’s a most unholy but delightful mess.

After seventeen years and multiple incarnations, few acts would remain with so many fresh ideas, but Deerhoof somehow follow the cacophony with a faux-Flamenco ballad replete with Spanish guitar and harpsichord arrangements (‘No One Asked to Dance’), and have one of the record’s most overtly ‘pop’ moments (‘Super Duper Rescue Heads!’) held together with an African mbira.

Although Deerhoof vs. Evil is definitely the band at their most polished, you can’t help but feel that a little less sheen – perhaps more in the vein of predecessors such as the gloriously batshit Apple O’ – would not have gone amiss. Furthermore, segue track ‘Let’s Dance to the Jet’ errs too far on the side of album filler rather than avant-garde experimentation.

Despite this, Deerhoof still possess more charm and innovation than most other bands to have emerged since their conception, which is a testament to their longevity. By the album’s conclusion, it is clear who the victors are in this battle.

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