One of the greatest cult bands of the past decade, Deerhoof returns with an album that’s true to form with Breakup Song
. Since guitarist Chris Cohen left the band a few years back, after performing on most of the band’s breakthrough records, Deerhoof has been in flux, releasing one great album (Friend Opportunity
) and a couple of muddled ones. Breakup Song
picks back up and finds the band full of renewed purpose, releasing a confident, 30-minute set of material that finds the band doing what they do best, pairing wild noise experimentalism with neo-classical guitars, Greg Saunier’s explosive drumming and Satomi Matsuzaki’s childlike vocals. Though still not for the unadventurous, Breakup Song
is embracing. On “Zero Seconds Please,” Matsuzaki explains “Now I am going dancing/If you would care to join me,” accompanied by a freestyle keyboard line and crushing noise. That track and the fantastical “Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III” are the closest thing Deerhoof has released to dance tracks but are brutal examples of how Deerhoof eschews any convention or desire to make easy-to-please music — “Seconds” quickly changes into a subtler, lusher groove and effectively forgets its earlier portion, while “Whiskers” is too close to Tom Waits territory to light up most any nightclub any time soon. This is one of Deerhoof’s hallmarks — toying with pop convention and then completely subverting it, creating a kind of kid’s hip-hop track in the first half of “There’s That Grin” before going slightly atonal with strange horns and typically excellent guitarwork from John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez, covering muscular jazz, classic rock and harmonic math-rock. Each track reveals a new set of turns to the music, encompassing a wider swath of sound than the band’s past few albums, whether it’s bizzaro toy-pop (“Bad Kids to the Front”), syncopated synthy art-rock (“Mothball the Fleet”), a trip back to the epic, skewed rock ‘n’ roll of The Runners Four
(“To Fly or Not to Fly”) or the brittle underside of party rock (“We Do Parties”). With a band like Deerhoof, it’s in the eye of the beholder to say what does and doesn’t work, but Breakup Song
is such a welcome release because the band sounds wildly inspired once again.