Deerhoof have been going 20 years. 20 years! Crazy. Anyhow, this is their latest beast of a record and the general consensus is that it's a groove record, full of killer repeating riffs, the vocals adding a poppy edge that the band hopes will appeal to everyone on the planet not just Deerhoof fans. Bound to be interesting. 'Exit Only' (derived from a rehearsal of a Ramones song) certainly has brim and vigour.
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- La Isla Bonita by Deerhoof
My favourite Deerhoof tune to date is Offend Maggie’s “Fresh Born”, but I only ever listen to the first twenty seconds. The guitar melody is to die for, an aspirational, constantly uprising riff that feels like it could fit snugly in any genre or style of music. Deerhoof, though? They hate that kind of comfort and complacency; the song spirals downwards, becoming a deranged clamour of guitar freakouts worthy of a dictionary definition of “what”. What indeed: ‘La Isla Bonita’ feels like its taken the structure of “Fresh Born” and stretched it into an album’s worth of material -- it excitedly proclaims an idea and then forgets about it for the next chapter of fuckery.
Deerhoof drummer Greg Sauiner has said before that his band don’t set out to make “masterpieces” when they record, and each album in the band’s career has served as incredibly exciting proof of that: this band would rather shoot themselves out of cannons than shoot for the canon. The band’s last two records were as freewheeling as a squad of joyful experimental punks can get, melding together bizarre, unexplained vignettes from frontwoman Satoma Matsuzaki with what can only be described as a hodgepodge of sounds. ‘La Isla Bonita’ is as crazed and fervent, but perhaps even less restrained; the opening chant of “Paradise Girls” feels like the band are aiming for a pop song but don’t quite know where to stick the landing, as if they’d written a theme for Lena Dunham’s show Girls, if it were set in an underworld managed by a playful Satan who wears a different hat every day.
Deerhoof never write pop songs, per se, because they never announce themselves or give their listener time to process what’s going on. Their tunes can go from a dance intro to weird bubblegum pop segues into ripping off a punk band of their choice -- it was apparently the Ramones for the ferocious “Exit Only”, though the song also has hints of a hardcore breakdown going for it. When you hear the lyrics -- like, you know, the chant of “Too many choices to order breakfast” -- you’re reminded of why Deerhoof’s music takes on so many forms: it’s set in a surreal world where you can pick genres off trees. On ‘La Isla Bonita’, there’s usually a throughline to their songs, like the irresistible bass groove of “Big House Waltz”, but it’s always being torn down for something else -- in this case, with wheezy guitar interplay that sounds half-way between a car alarm and a dude throwing up. The next tune is a loopy, tropical instrumental that descends into a hellish cacophony of all the wrong notes, like the band are conspiring to make dissonant elevator muzak. ‘La Isla Bonita’ sort of feels like a conspiracy. The good kind. The moon landing kind.
9/10 Nick 2nd December 2014
Having listened to Deerhoof for some time now I approached their 12th studio album in the same way as I did with the band’s previous 11… It’ll take a couple of listens; and 'La Isla Bonita' certainly doesn't disappoint in this department. In the age of disposable music, it is gratifying to encounter music which isn't instantly identifiable and requires work to truly appreciate.
Not that this work is in any way demanding. Each song on 'La Isla Bonita' is different in its own right and discovering the personality of each, whether it be the psychologically infused mantra of 'Girls' or the almost spiritual dissection in 'Black Pitch', gives a great listen to any music fan. The guitars of Dieterich and Rodriguez bounce, dance and clatter off one another until ultimately forming riffs and jams which stick in the mind for days if not weeks. Saunier dictates the feel of many of the songs through his always unpredictable yet always genius rhythms while the distinctive voice of Matsuzaki creates the atmosphere.
Once you embrace the fact that you probably won’t ‘get’ La Isla Bonita on first listen, you will be free to discover the depth, diversity, beauty and creativity which it delivers in abundance.
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