With all the talk lately surrounding that other band from the West Coast that’s releasing an album on an indie stalwart this week, it’s easy to forget just how far Deerhoof’s profile has risen in a short period of time. Sure, the San Francisco trio isn’t appearing on SNL or being anointed a life changer by Hollywood stars. Touring with Radiohead and the Flaming Lips and having an elementary school stage a musical based on one of your albums ain’t exactly small potatoes, though. Nor is the fact that Deerhoof happens to be the band releasing the better album this week.
After thirteen years, eight albums and multiple lineup changes, the current incarnation of the band seems to have finally stumbled upon a winning formula. Whereas previous Deerhoof releases could be accused of a certain level of avant conceit, the band expertly walks the tightrope between accessibility and innovation throughout Friend Opportunity (with the exception of the clusterfuck that is “Look Away,” anyway, but at least the members had the good grace to stick that one at the end). Longtime fans might lament the loss of a second guitar and the balls-out thrashing that sometimes came with it, but on certain levels it may be a blessing in disguise. A leaner Deerhoof allows other facets of the band to shine, most notably Greg Saunier’s drum work. Expressive and original, but never over the top, Saunier’s work behind the skins on Friend Opportunity offers up some of the album’s most distinctive moments. The clippity-clop groove of “The Perfect Me” or the off-kilter fills on “The Galaxist” spring immediately to mind.
While “+81,” with its mariachi horns and surf-y guitar licks, was a wise first single, “Matchbook Seeks Maniac” is probably the album’s greatest achievement. The point when the guitars and keys come together during that perfectly staggered chorus has my early vote for most enjoyable musical moment of 2007. If Friend Opportunity has a weakness, it’s that Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals are likely to be as divisive as ever. The child-like quality of her voice is admittedly an acquired taste, but those who are willing to dismiss a novel band like this on such flimsy grounds is only harming themselves. For the rest of us, Deerhoof has served up a quirky little pop odyssey to obsess over.
“+81” MP3: http://www.krs5rc.com/deerhoof/81.mp3