This album should have been titled Deerhoof vs. Preconceived Notions of Music. Over the last decade, Deerhoof has been the lovable band known best by cutesy frontwoman Satomi Matsuzaki and their ever-evolving, always odd sound. Since 2002’s Reveille, the band hasn’t made a bad or even mediocre record. They have continued to shock, awe and confuse audiences into joy. But after giving Deerhoof vs. Evil one spin, I thought all that had changed.
With a furrowed brow I quickly texted friend and Deerhoof fanatic, Bob: “Have you heard the new Deerhoof album??” With no reply, I was left sitting in the Natural Grocers parking lot in a state of shock. Could it be possible? Could Deerhoof have made a bad album? I let it sit. A week later, after going through the gauntlet that is the Deerhoof discography, I came back to Deerhoof vs. Evil and found a different record entirely. This one was interesting and engaging and nothing short of wonderful. So what’s the deal with this album anyway? Why the two faces?
And then I looked at the title. “Deerhoof vs. Evil.” It almost invites the listener to determine what exactly “Deerhoof” and “Evil” mean. Is “Deerhoof” the quirky band you’ve spent so much time with? Is it just a name that carries with it nothing more than shallow assumptions? And what about “Evil?” Is it everything that Deerhoof is not? Is it everything they hate about themselves? That we don’t like about them? No matter how you interpret the name on the cover, the fact of the matter is that this album is CHALLENGING.
The band takes a more downtrodden approach that borders on mainstream rock mediocrity. But just when you’ve determined that much about the album, they hit you back with the same old oddball sideshow you’re used to. Matsuzaki burdens you with questions (“What is this thing called love?”) and teases you with threats (“This is a stick-up”). While many of their records have a solid theme or inspiration, Deerhoof vs. Evil is maddeningly difficult to pin down. And just when you think that’s maybe the whole point of the thing, the band comes back and casts a shadow of doubt yet again.
So just like the ten other Deerhoof albums, we’re left in a state of pleased confusion. But unlike their previous work, Deerhoof vs. Evil is something that challenges the fans to consider–and even reconsider–our ideas on music and the art of the album. Or maybe it doesn’t do that at all. Maybe you just flat-out hate the thing. And isn’t THAT the whole point of the thing? I wouldn’t even begin to know.
Buy Deerhoof vs. Evil now on Polyvinyl.