Noise pop outfit Deerhoof reached a sort of pinnacle with last year’s Deerhoof Vs. Evil, their first LP with Polyvinyl Records, maintaining their level of indie cred while successfully creating some sort of alien funk pop that is no doubt top ten with a bullet in some alternate universe. Their mojo keeps rolling on with their 11th album Breakup Song, an suite-like 30-minute work of skronk and twitch that nevertheless doesn’t forget to sweetly sing, boogie, and strut (often within the same piece). With very little if any pause between songs, it begs to be digested in one chunk. And at just a half-hour in length, it’s tempting.
Give a lot of credit to drummer, keyboardist and founding member Greg Saunier, who’s as comfortable with laying down a James Brown-type groove as he is a straight-ahead rockin’ four, all amongst the fuzz guitars, electronic effects, and the ever-present terse and cryptic lyrics delivered in a flat, deadpan style by bassist Satomi Matsuzaki (“I am coming to you from a speaker deep inside / The autojubilator is free of charge,” from “We Do Parties,” just to give you a taste. And with song titles like “Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III,” you soon catch on that it’s not about linear storytelling, anyway). Guitarists (etc.?) Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich fill out a palette of varied colors for these overstuffed creations. It’s not your patented formula for pop hits, but for supposedly “arty” music, it sure goes down easy and never stops shaking butts for a moment.
Deerhoof may have flirted with more traditional structures on their previous album, but here most of the time the band’s aesthetic seems to be latching onto a compelling motif, grooving on it for bit, and then moving on to another tasty morsel. Traditional pop song conceits are mainly jettisoned. The closest the band gets to a traditional verse/chorus/verse is with “Mothball the Fleet,” complete with ringing guitars that have a decidedly Asian flavor to them.
A mambo consistently seems to be on the verge of breaking out on “The Trouble with Candyhands,” with trumpet and sax sounds trying to break free of the repetitive and insistent 6/4 beat (you expect a “Unh!” to be thrown in here and there). The techno-influenced “Bad Kids to the Front” alternates simmering synths with a chaotic-sounding clatter of trebly atonal beeps that smack of early Moog (and are, I am sure, anything but random). And the aforementioned butt shaking’s in evidence on such tracks as “There’s That Grin” and “Zero Seconds Pause.”
Overall, there’s nothing new here for fans of previous Deerhoof albums; the band’s just working the same formula, fine tuning and tweaking in search of further sonic excellence. But what a formula. Long may they rock.