Review ·

Welcome, class, to your first day of “Experimental Music 101: An Introduction to Innovative Rock ‘n’ Roll.” We’ll dispense with the typical first-day activities -- standing up, saying your name, listing hobbies -- and get right to the material. I brought with me a copy of Deerhoof’s Green Cosmos EP. While we listen to it, I’ll lecture you on why this EP is a perfect example of experimentation in modern rock music.

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Let’s start with opener “Come See the Duck.” As you can hear, the song begins innocently enough. The electric guitar serves as the perfect deception, and you might be inclined to think this is a fairly straightforward piece. The drums only add to this trickery, as do the well-placed strings. But when vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki sings the word “come” and the band takes that as a command to trash completely, we’ll realize Deerhoof’s ruse. Hear that? The track will continue as a variation on this theme, and Matsuzaki will only say “see the duck” and one other sentence by the time the song ends. This would be tiring if the song weren’t only a minute and five seconds long. At that length, it’s ideal -- some of Deerhoof’s most interesting work to date.

Let’s turn to the title track, where the band takes a monstrous beat and pairs it with keyboard squall a la the Fiery Furnaces, another group that’s not afraid to push pop music’s envelope. Matsuzaki sings entirely in Japanese, which brings up an interesting point: The songs on Green Cosmos were originally going to be released only in Japan as a part of a split EP, but luckily enough for us in the States, Deerhoof decided to release them worldwide on its own.

Skipping past “Malalauma,” possibly the release’s least-inspired track, we find ourselves at “Spiral Golden Town.” Now, I see some of you bobbing your heads and tapping your feet, and your movement is not unwarranted. This song emits an almost tropical vibe (via more strings and horns), and in turn is unapologetically danceable. It hardly sounds like we’re listening to the same band. Make note of this: A great experimental band will keep you guessing.

Speaking of which, up next is the just-over-a-minute instrumental outburst of “Hot Mint Air Balloon,” which transitions oddly into “Koneko Kitten.” Notice how Matsuzaki meows for the song’s final twenty seconds? That’s a perfect example of what we’ll be looking at this semester. Then, bringing it back around to the beginning of the EP, we have the energetic “Byun,” which most closely resembles the raucous unpredictability of “Come See the Duck.” We’ve come full circle.

With that, I’ll let you go. Today’s class has only lasted fifteen minutes, but the brevity of this EP is part of fun of it. I hope you’ve enjoyed your first day as much as I have. I’ll see you tomorrow when we study more experimental rock ‘n’ roll.

Discuss this review at the Prefix Message Board

"The Great Car Tomb" MP3

"Holy Night Fever" MP3

Deerhoof on Kill Rock Stars' Web site

Various Deerhoof audio samples

Deerhoof live on WFMU

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