Album Of The Week – The Magic / Deerhoof


There’s something to be said for a band that can be as sugary and as heavy as Deerhoof are. The album covers and the bandname perhaps suggest a calm DIY indie band, but then the music begins and it’s like a candy floss boulder rolling your way. Deerhoof cleverly self-produce themselves, creating a dense slab of guitars and synths that builds into a wall of sound. The best decision Deerhoof ever made was to condense themselves down into two minutes, and then fill up forty minutes with erratic, bubbly rock that’s hard not to like. This is a band that came from the 90s, but they’ve outlived many of the bands from that era. Instead of instant success, through albums that continue their run such as The Magic, they are more respected and influential than ever.

It’s not all manic energy. There’s jazzy experimentation on ‘Model Behaviour’, plus synth freakouts, krautrock on ‘Debut’ and cheesy arena rock on ‘Acceptance Speech’. If anything, I think The Magic would further improve with their slower moments, as usually you’ll find an energetic punk song directly afterwards. ‘Little Hollywood’ tries to cross the boundaries between their noisy punk side and electronic elements. The synthetic drums are wonderful, sounding industrial and almost like a videogame. Then the searing guitar riff comes in to humanise the cold drums. The vocals are a combination between Satomi Matsuzaki and Greg Saunier, who are often a perfect duo due to Matsuzaki’s talent for high-pitched yells that works wonders on ‘Kafe Mania!’ and Saunier’s growl on ‘That Ain’t No Life To Me’.

‘Plastic Thrills’ is Deerhoof at their best, beginning with a surf-rock guitar that resembles a sped up ‘Bohemian Like You’ and Matsuzaki’s declaration that ‘This town is built on nothing’. The production is perfect; the bass is funky in one ear, and there’s an ear-piercing guitar in the other. Plus, you have Rolling Stones-style drums complete with tambourine. And it’s all done in a short, sweet 2 minutes. There’s no messing around with Deerhoof, and that fifteen tracks is to their advantage. On ‘That Ain’t No Life To Me’, Saunier takes the lead on a punky song that doesn’t incorporate much else in the way of jazz or electronic music that they suggest. But that’s ok, because there’s lyrical highlights like ‘I don’t care how the other half lives / ‘Cause I’ve seen how the other half dies’.

It might have been recorded without much planning, but the spontaneity of The Magic helps in every way. They don’t have a direction, instead, Deerhoof spread themselves over so many genres and styles that it’s only possible because it’s condensed into little 2 minute pockets. It’s fun, and that’s got to be the intended effect, because I couldn’t help enjoying seeing where Deerhoof would go next. The genre-hopping is never jarring, and perhaps that’s because they never outstay their welcome.

Funnel Recommends: The Devil And His Anarchic Surrealist Retinue / Model Behaviour / Plastic Thrills