Album Reviews

    To anyone sick of standard “verse-chorus-verse” pop songwriting, Deerhoof are a godsend. Though the group largely utilizes traditional instrumentation with the occasional electronics to compose their experimental songs, their approach is anything but traditional.

    Singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki tells the story of a strange mythical character called “the milk man” who deceives children on the buoyant title track. Her childish delivery and nonsensical lyrics provide the perfect counterpoint to the music, which alternates between prog-rock guitar interplay and all-out thrash.

    Greg Saunier’s forceful drumming proves particularly useful in keeping things moving while the others play heady-but-catchy interlocking riffs. The resulting constructions are often strikingly unusual, but the band keeps things light with instinctual melodies to serve as footholds.

    “Dog on the Sidewalk,” which consists of nothing more than Matsuzaki chanting “dog on the sidewalk” and random electronic spurts might scare off casual listeners. But the poppy “Milking” and the propulsive “Gigadance” are among the most accessible songs the band has ever created.

    Unlike some left field pop groups, Deerhoof never seem to take themselves very seriously. On “Desaparaceré,” Matsuzaki rhymes misspoken Spanish lines like “fiesta fiesta, por supuesta” that makes her broken English sound clear in comparison. If that sounds too kitschy, check out the instrumental “Rainbow Silhouette of the Milky Man,” a tightly-wound guitar workout that promotes even more toe-tapping fury than the slinkiest Strokes number.

    On previous releases such as the wildly adventurous Reville and the giddy Apple O’, Deerhoof sounded largely unaware of its audience, ending songs prematurely or stretching them to epic proportions. Milk Man sacrifices a bit of musical identity to keep its sonic explosions conservative and song lengths manageable. To the uninitiated, however, the fantastical Milk Man will sound radically different than most anything else. Few artists are capable of such distorted ugliness and melodic beauty within the same album — much less within the same songs.

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