Deerhoof Vs. Evil (Polyvinyl)
Led by drummer/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Greg Saunier and mouse-voiced, Tokyo-born bassist/vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki, Deerhoof originally embraced an atonal aesthetic filtered through a warped, experimental lens, occasionally deploying hummable melodies over free-jazz drums and electric-guitar demolitions. Throughout the years, members have changed along with tastes, and the Deerhoof palette has expanded with virtually every release, a relentless parade of unusual instrumentation, song structures, and production, peaking in perfection with 2007’s critically lauded Friend Opportunity, which arrived like an atom bomb of color and overdubs, a pinnacle of modern rock production—somehow also serving as the band’s most melodic and strangely commercial release to date. Offend Maggie, a year later, felt like a bit of step sideways, the band stripping back their more free-spirited, multi-layered tendencies in favor of raw, abrasive, guitar-dominated arrangements.
On Deerhoof vs. Evil, the band’s 11th full-length album, they’ve crafted a spirited return to form. Absolutely no other band on the planet puts as much stock in creating such elaborate mazes of art-pop. At the very least, Deerhoof vs. Evil is a marvel of modern recording, each sound dripping with effects and buoyancy, always filling a creative hole in the mix. The band members are as fearless as producers as they are as players, treating a ProTools monitor like Salvador Dali did a blank canvas. “The Merry Barracks” is a stereo-panned highlight, electric guitars whizzing by in rapid succession over a demented drum kit/bass groove, commencing in an impressionistic noise solo that treats lunacy like high art.
Whatever they’re fighting—evil, boredom, pop music—by the time the final tones have faded, leaving you breathless and transported, one truth remains clear: They’ve won.