Deerhoof vs. Evil, the latest eclectic offering from the San Francisco-based four-piece is surprisingly their most accessible album to date, and quite possibly their best. Veteran listeners shouldn't be too frightened; they haven’t completely withdrawn their honed experimental roots, but rather enlarged their sound and furthered their contention as the most diversified groups around.
There’s plenty to offer on Deerhoof vs. Evil. As clichéd as it may sound, the album is so varied that there's likely to be something appealing for any discerning pop fan. The language transitions on the album are a major theme, not only in lyrics but also in tone. A battle of central ideas are juxtaposed but combined with surprising clarity. On “Behold a Marvel in the Darkness”–a song that comes off sounding like Stereolab having a cup of tea with Johnny Greenwood–a French sung opening verse is dripped in quaintness and gentility. Later on the cut, vocalist Satomi Miatsuzaki swiftly and smoothly goes onto ponder (in English) “What is this thing called love?” and is met with a response of epic-sized distorted guitar riffs.
“No One Asked to Dance” opens with Spanish infused fanciful fret work on acoustic guitar and later exposes Miatsuzaki’s beautiful vocal depth (which is varied enough to make someone contemporaneous crooner like Joanna Newsom jealous). The following track “Let’s Dance the Jet” is another stampeding rock flaunter, only this time completely instrumental.
But it’s on a song like “Super Duper Rescue Heads!” where their now championed pop sensibilities really come to the forefront. Over a bedazzled synth and melodic bassline, Miatsuzaki coos, with layers building and the addition of crunchy power chords on guitar. On “Secret Mobilization”, a cut that opens with one of the most alt-rock 90’s guitar riffs circa the future to date, Deerhoof sounds convincingly fun – just wait until the blaring note-bending kicks in.
The band recorded the album with “no rehearsal studios involved,” as drummer Greg Saunier put it. Instead they made the album in their Oakland practice space, and at their own homes and basements. So it seems fair to resort to simple “fun” when describing Deerhoof vs. Evil. It’s fun for the listener and, so it seems, fun for Deerhoof. For a band to be having this much of a good time 14 years down the road seems downright uncanny, and also emphasizes the fact that these guys are a precious rarity. At the end of the day, Deerhoof vs. Evil is a truly pleasurable offering that also serves as a great jump-off point for those unfamiliar.