Deerhoof – Breakup Song (Polyvinyl/ September 4 2012)
By Tim Marshall
For those who like to find meaning in random statistics, Deerhoof’s twelfth album released in 2012 features eleven tracks, the first of which is called ‘Breakup Songs’ on an album called Breakup Song. This title/track reversal is perhaps a playful joke on the teenage heartbreak pop record given that the San Francisco four-piece are now in their forties, and it is an album characterised by playfulness and whimsy.
However, as a big fan of their last album, Deerhoof vs Evil, I am quite disappointed with this latest offering. After half a dozen plays it has yet to make an impression on me and is missing the stand out tracks like ‘Secret Mobilization’ and ‘No one Asked to Dance’ from Deerhoof vs Evil. Some puritans, however, may feel that those tracks stray close to the middle of the road and weed out the connoisseurs from the fair-weather listeners.
Breakup Song is only thirty minutes long with the average track length at just over two minutes, each a fusion of upbeat pop melodies, layered guitar motifs and dark electronica amongst a myriad of other musical influences. So much is packed into these short blasts of noise, some brilliant passages followed by something tangential and overly-experimental, that the collage technique can make the listening experience interesting but also more frustrating than enjoyable at times. The title track ‘Breakup Songs’ is a microcosm of the this in that it has a great punchy opening but then drifts from one idea to the next, unable to sustain the intensity promised.
To pick some highlights, ‘Kids to the Front’ is like Squarepusher mixed with Japanese pop and the ‘To Fly or not to Fly’ has a bombastic synth/guitar riff opening, reminiscent of Muse’s ‘Map of the Problematique’ with a similarly heavy ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ industrial strength break down.
However, it is a completely contrasting track that is my favourite – ‘The Trouble With Candyhands,’ with its salsa rhythms and trumpets building up to a lovely psychedelic chorus “Then you bring me flowers,” which I have been singing all weekend.
The penultimate track ‘Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III’ is a delightfully bonkers piece of danceable electro-pop built around 8-bit Game Boy sound effects, perhaps in homage to the famous plumber himself. ‘Fete d’adieu’ provides a more downbeat melodic conclusion to the album and it could be straight from The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. I also found myself frequently comparing it to of Montreal and in particular Hissing Fauna You are the Destroyer, as both feature sweet sounding vocals that mask their dark lyrical content and seem to float free of the discordant music beneath.
To anthropomorphise the album, it is like a hyperactive child engrossed in painting a beautiful scene, but just as it comes together they rip it up and start drawing again. However, the cut and paste approach will hopefully provide some great material for some extended remixes.