We’re Not Really Breaking Up, Are We?



The Breakup Song

Polyvinyl Records, 2012

Review by Kent Manthie


    This year, so far, has been a pretty good year for indie music.  In the early part of 2012 we received a couple other bands’ albums also on the Polyvinyl Records roster:  Owen’s whimsical, at times and always introspective Ghost Town as well as the newest from Athens, GA wonder kinder, of Montreal, the neo-disco-drenched Paralytic Stalks.  There was also the blissful CD, Antibodies, by Nate Kinsella’s project, Birthmark (all of which I reviewed in past editions of Reviewer (www.reviewermag.net – formerly:  www.reviewermag.com).

This review, however, is concentrating on the soon-to-be-released new album by Deerhoof, The Breakup Song.  Deerhoof are an interesting band hailing from the coolest city in the world, San Francisco, CA.  They’ve been around since around 1994 and have been putting out both iconoclastic and irreverent songs which deliver catchiness in one way or another.  To be able to still be doing that almost 20 years later is quite a feat.  The only other bands that can claim a glory like that – or beyond – are Sonic Youth, who, one never gets tired of, Stereolab, a band that seems to come from their own planet, that’s how different they are from just about anything else out there as well as grunge heroes, The Melvins.  Deerhoof, anyway, certainly does things their own way.

My last (and first) introduction to Deerhoof was their January, 2011-released album, Deerhoof vs. Evil, which I reviewed for Reviewer – posted up on their website, which used to be www.reviewermag.com, but which has changed URLs and is now to be found at:  www.reviewermag.net.  This review will be posted on that site (www.reviewermag.net) as well as my own new review-blog, INDEPENDENT REVIEW, which must be accessed by going to:  www.kmanthie.wordpress.com which will take you straight to the front page of INDEPENDENT REVIEWER – check it out and tell a friend won’t you?

Anyway, back to Deerhoof – their lead vocalist and bassist, Satomi Matsuzaki, has a very lovely voice, a smooth, laid back chanteuse-style voice that seems to hypnotize the listener.  But the rest of the band, guitarists John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez as well as drummer Greg Saunier, seem to catapult the sedation into outer space.  The Breakup Song is a whole new bag of tricks and has some more unique styles and there is no one label that you can pin on Deerhoof, except maybe that they are an “indie” band (on Chicago’s Polyvinyl Records) and iconoclastic.

    Originally, when they were still milling around the Bay Area scene, getting a feel for what kind of niche they wanted to fit into, as well as going through different personnel lineups up to where they are now, they were described as being a “noise-band”, neo-punk, indie (which is what they are, at heart), etc.  But after years of coalescing their sound into a coherent, yet unpredictable style, they’re still leaving fans and critics alike scratching their heads as to what the next album is about or means or if it’s got any meaning to it at all.

Their 2011 album, Deerhoof vs. Evil seemed to be a bit more “accessible”, that is, to the already jaded, cynical audiences that are into indie vs. corporate schlock-emo crap, compared to this current album, The Breakup Song.  One of my favorite songs on that CD was “I Did Crimes for You”, a sort of twisted way to rationalize one’s loyalty to another, yet…There were also some other interesting bits and pieces to that album In fact, that is one thing that has redeemed them in my eyes – the unique and quirkiness of the album.

On The Breakup Song,Satomi’s vocalizing fits in quite well with the avant-garde and experimental sounds that the other three guys cook up.  A couple songs worth mentioning (and which piqued my interest) are “Zero Seconds Pause”, “Mothball the Fleet” as well as “We Do Parties”, which has a heavy bass track to it, some synth-drum-machine in it and a clean, crisp guitar that noodles throughout.  But it’s really hard to pick favorites here, since the whole CD is packed with ear candy that sticks to the brain and is hard to wash away.

If you get interested and do pick up The Breakup Song, remember that these guys have been around since 1994 and so have quite a history and just reading about the many guises they’ve been through and stuff they’ve done tells me that there could be a varied history to them.  If you are into experimental music with a pop underbelly, but that is just as unpredictable at the same time then get yourself hooked into the world of Deerhoof.  –KM


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