Deerhoof: Deerhoof vs. Evil (Polyvinyl) 

Calling the members of Deerhoof musical dilettantes is disingenuous. The San Francisco group's lengthy career (going on 16 years) may be cultivated on a healthy musical curiosity, but there is nothing superficial or casual about the band's methods or products. Evidence: the meticulously crafted, yet indelibly cool Deerhoof vs. Evil.

It's a safe wager that Deerhoof is sincerely committed to its idiosyncrasies. As such, its output always sounds enjoyable, if eerily similar: The music is inchoate yet refined, the lyrics vacant yet pregnant with subtlety. Lately, Deerhoof has successfully incorporated the crunch and thrash of punk and metal into the mix. Therefore, the slippery, sparkling rhythms of "Behold a Marvel in the Darkness" make way for soaring, screeching passages, while "The Merry Barracks" rides cacophonous waves of distortion, and the funky grooves of "Secret Mobilization" give way to a white-hot guitar-melting conclusion.

There are, however, chinks in the band's mighty armor. The stuffy "Hey I Can" seems almost like a Deerhoof parody, with Satomi Matsuzaki endlessly intoning the title over digital discards. And the Greg Saunier-sung closer, "Almost Everyone, Almost Always," suggests more than it actually delivers.

Still, when Deerhoof experiments, it does so with aplomb. As finely attuned proof, witness the beautiful flamenco-infused "No One Asked to Dance," the video-game blips and hip-hop swagger of "Super Duper Rescue Heads!" and the surprisingly touching chorus of "I Did Crimes for You."

This is a feel-good album by a genial band; it is quirky at its best and brightest.

More by Michael Petitti


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