Deerhoof: La Isla Bonita

Music Reviews Deerhoof
Deerhoof: La Isla Bonita

You walk into the Deerhoof juicebar and you’re perturbed by the ingredients of each concoction. How could that work? I’m not sure I want to drink a boysenberry-vanilla and seaweed-shot…No way. But, then you gulp it down and you feel amazing, invigorated, dizzy even.

Call it crazy wisdom, but this San Francisco quartet long ago became mystically attuned to the terrific possibilities of combining punk with a groove, garage rock clatter with a pop-inclined danceability, or, essentially, cuteness with strangeness…cool, but batshit!

Take their first single off of their 12th full-length album, “Last Fad.” Each player exhibits presumably incongruent modes, the drums striking an enticing shuffle while the wobbly bass groove invokes a hip-shakeable rhythm, yet the guitars, characteristically clawed at with a combination of overeager restlessness and graceful agility, caustically cluck (more so than riff) over the groove. Yet, somehow, a sort of harmony is attained, perhaps by the soothing, sighing coo of lead vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki, a cascading, wordless melody to serve as a binding agent over the jumble of moods.

Matsuzaki sings a slinky chorus in “Last Fad” that bounces over her bass and instantly pingpongs into your brain. And just when all seems well and poppy, with cheerily clapping claves, those magnificently mean guitars stir the pot again, agitating up a cyclone of riffs that blows the drums into a higher gear, nearly a techno-speed thump. As if to encapsulate this sense of “anything could happen next…” the proceeding guitar “solo” is absolutely gyroscopic.

And that leads into the spaghetti-western bravado of “Tiny Bubbles,” with the guitars smoldering at the opening with enough grit and reverb so you can taste the desert gravel in your mouth, only to hitch a ride the fill-heavy march of the drums to morph into more of a funky, nervier riff. We have to say, this is one of the tightest and most intricately arranged Deerhoof records, particularly rhythmically, that we can recall. After nearly 20 years, they sound as sharp and as zesty as ever. Yes, zesty; because if one song opens up like a doom-rattled rendering of hardcore punk moshing, it will likely lighten up into something much groovier by the first chorus. (Only to shift, again, into some other kind of mutation of disco and metal by the time you get to the bridge).

“Paradise Girls” is possibly the most charming song on the record, with hyper-pinched guitar riffs spitting loudly at the opening as though it were a blipping signal to brace yourself before the dance, before the race, before the test, before the tantrum begins. And it could be all four of those exercises, all at once, in just three minutes, when it comes to Deerhoof.

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