What We’re Hearing: Deerhoof’s “Breakup Song”
The first time I saw Deerhoof was at Nashville’s infamous stink-hole dive bar, the Springwater Supper Club and Lounge in 2000. They tore through seven songs in under twenty minutes, putting then-new guitarist John Dieterich through his paces. Drummer Greg Saunier’s lurching, powerhouse fills and bassist Satomi Matsuzaki’s child-like, sing-song lyrics were balanced perfectly by Dieterich’s virtuosic guitar lines, at once graceful and frantic, and I was in love. This was pop music at its most thrilling, avant-garde experimentalism at its most tuneful. Over a decade later, I still can’t get enough. Fortunately, neither than can they.
Deerhoof’s 11th long-player, (their third since adding guitarist Ed Rodriguez, Dieterich’s former Colossamite and Gorge Trio bandmate, to the fold prior to 2008’s terrific Offend Maggie) finds them committing fully to a leaner, cleaner sound, leaving behind much of the noisy experimentalism that marked such classics as 2002’s Reveille and 2003’s Apple O. Breakup Song feels a party record, packing eleven bright, danceable hits into just under half an hour. “Zero Seconds Pause” is practically a club banger, all squelching bass, whispered vocals, and house synths. And if you can listen to “There’s That Grin” without chair-dancing like an idiot, you might want to check your pulse. The record takes its first breather at the close of “Mothball The Fleet”, a brief respite featuring plaintive piano and Saunier’s haunting falsetto. That isn’t to say the album isn’t without it’s weirder moments. “To Fly Or Not To Fly”, for example, sounds just a little bit like the end of the world. Still, the overall vibe of the album is that of celebration.
It’s tempting to say that Deerhoof has completed their transition from noise-pop trailblazers to pop superheroes, especially considering the brighter tone of most of their previous album, Deerhoof vs. Evil. The truth, though, is that both sides of the coin have always coexisted. To suggest that Deerhoof are at the end of a journey is to misunderstand the trip their on. Breakup Song, like all their previous records, is just a snapshot from an endless road trip. Next time they check in, they’ll likely be someplace else entirely.