Plumbiferous Media

Deerhoof vs. Evil - Deerhoof

Feb 6th 2011
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Deerhoof vs. Evil - DeerhoofDeerhoof
Deerhoof vs. Evil
Score: 35

San Fran­cis­co art rock group Deer­hoof, found­ed in 1994, released their tenth album on the 25th. As exper­i­men­tal as any of the group’s ear­li­er work, Deer­hoof vs. Evil is inter­est­ing but flawed (and per­haps a bit less than cohe­sive). As an album, Deer­hoof vs. Evil fits into Deer­hoof’s exten­sive library well - though it’s nei­ther the band’s best work nor an espe­cial­ly excel­lent album.

As can hope­ful­ly be expect­ed of any exper­i­men­tal album, Deer­hoof vs. Evil real­ly does have fair­ly inter­est­ing instru­men­tals. Wher­ev­er else the album may fall flat, it’s cer­tain­ly not here. Begin­ning with the not-quite-min­i­mal­is­tic intro­duc­tion to the album, Deer­hoof vs. Evil is an over­ly diverse dis­play of pret­ty much every­thing Deer­hoof can think of. It hon­est­ly is quite catchy, and it’s hard to get bored with an album that nev­er car­ries the same train of thought for more than a few min­utes, even if the end result is slight­ly childish.

In that vein, it must be not­ed that Deer­hoof vs. Evil makes absolute­ly no sense. The con­stant switch­ing between var­i­ous moods and even gen­res with a com­plete lack of tran­si­tions is fur­ther com­pli­cat­ed by vocals that just bare­ly fit with the rest of the music, and a way of singing the lyrics that makes the lyrics, when under­stand­able, sound com­plete­ly absurd. Deer­hoof vs. Evil is also not the type of album that can pass off the non­sense as being some­thing above nor­mal lev­els of com­pre­hen­sion - some­thing that might take a few lis­tens before its tru­ly under­stood. It’s just too pop­py for that, and regard­less, it makes just as much sense after a few addi­tion­al play throughs as it did the first time.

As usu­al, vocals are most­ly pro­vid­ed by Sato­mi Mat­suza­ki, in a gen­er­al­ly abstract mix­ture of Japan­ese and Eng­lish. Mat­suza­ki tends towards a sim­ple, almost child­ish vocal style - and man­ages to seem almost per­pet­u­al­ly cheer­ful while doing so. While it’s not the most com­plex approach to vocals, giv­en Deer­hoof’s rather dis­or­ga­nized style of instru­men­tals, it’s one of few styles that could avoid cacoph­o­ny as much as Mat­suza­k­i’s voice does. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, such a tech­nique sac­ri­fices enough of the poten­tial depth that rich vocals can add to music that it’s cer­tain­ly not excused by a sin­gle ben­e­fit. Instead, it comes off some­where between irri­tat­ing and inof­fen­sive, depend­ing on where it’s placed - and it often seems that it’s only through pure luck that it leans towards the latter.

Deer­hoof’s lyrics often seem to be more filler than any­thing else; they don’t seem to say much, and when they do, it’s in lines like “I’m gonna sue you / I’m gonna sue you” on “Must Fight Cur­rent.” Occa­sion­al­ly, when every­thing else lines up, the lyrics do seem to work, even if just for a sec­ond - lines like “My bat­tle cry / Stand­ing by” are just strange enough to work - but there aren’t many of those occa­sions. Instead, it’s much more of the for­mer set, mak­ing Deer­hoof’s lyrics lit­tle more than a side attraction.

Deer­hoof vs. Evil is cer­tain­ly inter­est­ing, but it’s even so, it’s not actu­al­ly par­tic­u­lar­ly good. It might be enter­tain­ing, at least at times, and parts of cer­tain tracks are gen­uine­ly catchy, but the album is most­ly just a mess. It’s exper­i­men­tal in the sense that it shares the per­pet­u­al pit­falls of many exper­i­men­tal albums: a com­plete lack of struc­ture, far too many ideas crammed into a lim­it­ed length of time, and sig­nif­i­cant­ly under­de­vel­oped con­cepts. Deer­hoof vs. Evil has its mer­its, but they are few and far between.

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