Deerhoof - "The Merry Barracks" (Deerhoof vs. Evil)
Given how hard Deerhoof hit you over the head with weird, it can actually come off as brazenly traditionalist, like a group that moves to Nashville for no reason or a rib fest blues guitarist wearing a black Panama hat. Except instead of rootsy apocrypha, Deerhoof plug in to the star-childish exponentialism that paved the way for orgies and prog. There are plenty of other bands that make more explicit reference to this or that Peruvian psych outfit, and Deerhoof without a doubt succeeds (fails?) in sounding like a credible indie-rock band at the same time. But so, too, does it gaze wide-eyed toward a future when accelerated time signature shifts will allow man to ascend to the astral plane.
I have no idea whether the members of Deerhoof really channel Scriabin. But one does hear in them a schizophrenic impatience with form that makes their work, lovely and well-executed in moments, basically a document of mad utopianism. Deerhoof vs. Evil has all of the 19th century literary ambition that its title implies, grandiosity without a single damn doubt.
In pursuit of the extravagantly new (although, yes, this is the band’s 10th album), of reforming indie rock, Deerhoof makes rapid mid-song adjustments, blasting not just from one rhythm to another but also between tempi, density, instrumentation and even genre. “Super Duper Rescue Heads” matches Yes, Richard Wagner or even “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” for dense proximity of melodies, many of which are promising but soon dropped without warning in favor of silliness or simply moving on to the next thing. The predominant modes of Deerhoof are “cool lick,” “Satomi has a goofy voice,” “Satomi’s lyrics are bizarre,” and then “everything is percussive.” To these Deerhoof vs. Evil adds one more, or perhaps merely advances an ongoing experiment: old-fashioned (circa 2000) glitch electronics, such as those that begin the opener “Qui Dorm, Nomes Somia,” are melded or alternated with emphasis on guitar. One of the album’s best aspects is the degree of mystery it embeds by way of such texture.
Alas, the manic pace of the total structural collage makes it awfully hard to settle in as a listener. Deerhoof vs. Evil has a Guernica quality, in which pleasure and humanity are sublimated to the grotesque, which in turn is justified by the supposed inevitability of rational progress. We’ve been down this road before. It led to Agent Orange, scabies and the Alan Parsons Project.