[sic] Magazine

Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita

With their winning run from Reveille to Offend Maggie, I thought Deerhoof could do no wrong; they simply had to continue being Deerhoof to keep making great albums. However, since their move to Polyvinyl, Deerhoof have misfired twice with Deerhoof vs Evil and Breakup Songs. While those two albums have their fans, I found the former too stylistically diverse and overproduced, and the latter a saccharine, electro-rock abomination. An interview with The Wire at the time of Evil was telling – the band admitted to moving away from collectively making decisions about the course of their songs, instead leaving each band member to satisfy their whims with diversions into various styles that neither cohered nor played to the band’s strengths. Thankfully, on new album La Isla Bonita, Deerhoof are back to their inimitable best.

These 10 songs were recorded in guitarist Ed Rodrigues’s basement and were originally intended as demos, but the band wisely decided to develop the rehearsal room recordings into final songs. If you’ve seen Deerhoof live, you’ll know that their kinetic energy and instrumental interplay are a large part of their magic. The immediacy of these performances demonstrates that this approach has paid off dividends. Each of the three tracks circulating the internet in advance of the album’s release gave a taste of the range of flavours on offer: ‘Exit Only’ = rock crunch; ‘Paradise Girls’ = catchy, silly pop; ‘Last Fad’ = dissonant, Magic Band-style riffage. There’s plenty more variety among the remaining seven tracks, each of which contributes to LIB’s distinctive appeal.

‘Mirror Monster’ sees Greg Saunier join Satomi on vocal duties for a plaintive, down-tempo mood piece. ‘Doom’ ricochets all over the shop, with pitchshifted guitars that ring out like kettle drums, before spiralling into a frantic thrashathon with plenty of Saunier’s trademark kit abuse. On ‘Tiny Bubbles’, the bright riffs trip over themselves and congeal, before being eaten alive by what sounds like an evil robot frog. On ‘Big House Waltz’, fuzz rises through the mix like a basement flooding with dank energy. Short instrumental ‘God 2’ reminds me of an old Deerhoof song (‘Snoopy Waves’?) and acts as a palette cleanser before the devastating one-two of ‘Black Pitch’ (“We’re gonna watch you 24/7”) and ‘Oh Bummer’. The latter is especially great, with Saunier on lead vocal, building a sinister bass riff into a crescendo of screeching feedback.

And then it’s over, in just over half an hour, leaving no choice but to go back to the beginning and ride again. This is easily among Deerhoof’s best, and after the crushing disappointment of their last two full-lengths, a wonderful surprise.

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