Deerhoof – Breakup Song – album review

Deerhoof – Breakup Song (Polvinyl Records)
CD / LP / DL
Available now

The twelfth studio album from Deerhoof is exactly what you’d expect – full of the unexpected. 

Californian band Deerhoof are back to confuse and confound with their difficult to classify music. Breakup Song represents the band’s 12th album since their debut release in 1997. There’s never a dull moment when these guys take to a studio.

It’s quite the opening to the album. Big bass beats dominate, with Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocal seeming angelic and light by comparison. The discordant beat and beautiful vocals mean the song is far from conventional and it’s often in your face. It’s a bold and interesting opener and what many people will expect from Deerhoof.

It’s a little more conventional on ‘There’s That Grin’. There’s a good tempo from the outset and a general upbeat tone to the song. Vocally it doesn’t stray too far from the opener, but musically it’s quite different. You’re taken out of the comfort zone when a harsh guitar enters the fray against a nice, warm sounding keyboard. The songs chops and changes, constantly challenging the listener and it I must say I quite liked it.

‘Bad Kids to the Front’ is fairly manic from the start. The tempo is high and the song is littered with some crazy electronic bursts and rapid drums. If you could hear what a computer is thinking, then this is probably what it would sound like.

‘Zero Seconds Pause’ has a more stripped down, gnarly sound. A synth sitting low in the mix lifts the songs to a new level. There’s a nice guitar part in there, but as with other tracks or indeed most of their work, it’s a challenging listen. The tempo slows down and the big bass note is back on ‘Mothball the Fleet’. The vocal is great and musically the song isn’t as schizophrenic , with the bass acting as the songs heartbeat. It ends with a very sad sounding vocal and piano.

‘Flower’ changes things up again, beginning with a beat that almost feels like it should be on a hip-hop track. There are little flashes of colour here and there, while the percussion is nice and crisp. It almost feels like it The Go! Team versus Flying Lotus at times.

‘To Fly Or Not To Fly’ begins in quite epic fashion.There’s a nicely distorted note and then some big, ominous drums before it drops into a steady rhythm. There’s a god feel to the song, which settles down before building again towards the end.

A Latin beat appears from out of the depths on ‘The Trouble With Candyhands’, before some processed beats and vocal come in. The natural rhythm comes through from that Latin style beat giving the song a really good, upbeat and hopeful feel.

‘We Do Parties’ has a great tempo borne of the driving, pulsing rhythm. It’s distorted and fuzzy around the edges. The guitar adds a nice snarl to the drive as the beat drives it onwards. It’s the standout track of the album for me.

Best song title of the album, however, goes to ‘Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III’. There’s a beat you may expect to find in a dance track, with little electronic flourishes all over the place. The beat is steady and infectious and hugely enjoyable. The vocal even gets a touch of distortion, giving it a fresh feel and your foot will be tapping. It;s another really good track. It does veer a little into Gwen Stefani at the end, but only for a very small time so it’s forgivable. Just.

The album closes on ‘Fete D’Adieu’. Unusually, there’s a really nice guitar on the intro. Unusual for Deerhoof that is, There’s a nice bass and staggered drum beat, while throughout the track a light and hopeful note sits low in the mix. It wraps up a really strong end to the album.

Deerhoof are never the kind of band you’ll sit on the sofa for a relaxing night and listen to. Or maybe they are if you like things a little unconventional. Either way this in a challenging record with some unusual moments, but that last three or four songs make it all worthwhile.

Fans will be happy and new listeners will find much to enjoy and a lot to scratch their heads at.

All words by Steve Mcgillivray. You can read more from Steve on LTW here.

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A child of the 1970's, I have an unnatural obsession with The Jam and Star Wars. This has never changed and I look forward to handing this down to my 1 year old daughter some day. Can be found lurking around at gigs in Edinburgh, before skulking off over the Forth Road Bridge to Fife with a notebook full of my ramblings. Not consigned to any particular genre - just love music. Can also be found talking rubbish on twitter far too often.

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