Deerhoof

The Magic

Polyvinyl

Jun 20, 2016 Issue # 57 - M83 Bookmark and Share


Ever since the release of Deerhoof vs. Evil in 2009, the normally rambunctious San Francisco ensemble has seemed somewhat restrained. The improvisation that punctuated Milk Man and The Runner's Four has vanished. Instead, the contents of Breakup Song and La Isla Bonita brought about a purer, more consistent reliance on melody.

Admittedly, even a more dulcet Deerhoof are never likely to become a wholly pristine pop combo. The theatrical shrill of Satomi Matsuzaki and avuncular percussion of Greg Saunier are always likely to serve up a sonic curveball or 12. And while the sounds may seem softer, the technical prowess has always remained.

Perhaps deliberately offsetting that tilt in such a polished direction, new album The Magic is a scruffier, more serrated affair. Over the course of 15 songs, the band surge through a stream of hexagonal thrusts such as opener "The Devil and His Anarchic Surrealist Retinue" and the guttural high-rising funk of "Debut."

But, there's no escaping a diminishing ability to knock listeners to the floor. "That Ain't No Life for Me" and "Plastic Thrills" are intense barbs of drum and fuzz that have no interest in deviating from this well-worn method. The tedium doesn't end there: "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" is little more than passive jazz bar fluff, and "Little Hollywood" is a sprawling, graceless mess.

At least closer "Nurse Me" manages to inject a blast of life into proceedings with its synapses-scorching time signatures and Matsuzaki's maniacal bellows. It's hardly enough to save an album that does its best, but never comes close to recreating the impromptu, brilliant chaos of the past. (www.deerhoof.net)

Author rating: 5.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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West coast fan
July 14th 2016
7:22pm

Disagree entirely that they no longer knock folks to the floor like they once did.  I base this off of seeing them live just this week, having heard nothing of this album and little of the previous two, and was ,along with 800 or so of my closest friends, completely blown away by the ferocity, flickering improvisation and global coherence of the new songs.  And this when six years ago I’d actually vowed off going to live pop/alt/rock shows, having been burned by a few acts—with the one exception I allowed being if I ever got a chance to see Deerhoof.  No lie—They restored my faith in music.

keith
July 15th 2016
11:46am

deerhoof vs evil came out in 2011