Deerhoof – The Magic (Upset The Rhythm)

Written by on June 24, 2016

Erratic, erotic and chaotic stuff from San Francisco band, Deerhoof. Crazy name, crazy guys…never less than interesting. Pretty difficult to pin a distinct label on this rather unclassifiable album. Quixotic, spiky, quirky, all of that. What it isn’t, is uninspired. Just when things seem to settle on a lively punk jumble, as on the cheerfully named, ‘Life Is Suffering‘, we’re off into electro synths on ‘Criminals Of The Dream‘. Which naturally immediately turn into a J-Pop style nod along.

It’s that sort of creativity that has signposted the rather remarkable history of Deerhoof. Formed in 1994, the band have released a minimum of 16 albums though multiple sources cannot even agree on that. Some have it as high as 19. All of that output self-produced and their career self-managed. Without a guiding, and possibly cynical, hand they have been free to experiment. Obviously not without success, with their career romping along merrily for all these years. A lot of their records shouldn’t work, yet, in their own peculiar universe, do.

With 15 tunes on this anarchic record, you’re pretty much certain to find something you like. Even if it’s only on for 10 seconds before it’s gleefully tossed out the window and the track takes an unexpected, though, in reality, entirely expected, left turn. Although vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki and her fellow band members have always had a way with the jarring, perhaps on The Magic this is a consequence of virtually writing and recording an entire album in seven days. In an abandoned office in the desert in New Mexico. This almost comes as no surprise as it doesn’t sound like it was recorded in any conventional way or space. Therein lies the shambolic alchemy. The magic, if you will. Because though you may come away from this thinking, “What the hell was that?“, it’s well nigh impossible not to be thrilled.

While Deerhoof records do sometimes have the air of throw enough crap at the wall, some of it will stick, it would be wrong to underestimate how supremely crafted this is. ‘Dispossessor‘ is a case in point. It may only be two minutes long and may sound like it’s being battered out in a shed with raucous, squealing, garage guitars but it has a tight way with a pop hook. Careless it is not. Has the air of Iggy Pop if he’d been asked to join The Monkees. A tantalising though faintly terrifying prospect. Which pretty much sums up this album. One is thrown from the curious but almost conventional, honking groove of ‘Debut‘ into, well, somewhere entirely different like the slightly demented ‘Nurse Me‘.

The Magic is an almost impossible record to give a numerical score. On the basis that it does indeed accomplish its professed desire to rekindle the spunky atmosphere of 1977, and on the basis, it does that whilst also being rather complex and not a load of three-chord machismo, it has to be quite high. With the proviso that, it’s just a very, very unusual record for the uninitiated.

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