The release of Deerhoof vs Evil means that San Francisco-based Deerhoof have been putting out their genre-hopping ditty-bopping noisy beautiful schizophrenic pop for about 16 years now – for the record, that’s 60% longer than the Beatles were around. Deerhoof haven’t sold nearly as many records as the Beatles though. Even in France, where the Beatles have apparently sold less records than astigmatic Greek charity-shop stalwart Nana Mouskouri. Isn’t that something? And she’s been around even longer than Deerhoof. I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Maybe Deerhoof should get Nana to do a guest spot on their next album. Anyway, Deerhoof vs Evil, while sadly bereft of guest spots by spectacle-fancying Greek warblers, has an excellent title for a concept album, I’m sure you’ll agree. In fact, if concept albums are your thing you’ll be like a pig in muck here – instead of just one concept for the album, there’s a different concept for every song. Genius.The album kicks off with “Qui Dorm, Només Somia,” which Google tells me is Catalan for “About Sleep, Just Dream.” The lyrics are all in foreign but I guess it’s about having a siesta whilst a Barca FC match plays on the wireless in the next room. Or something. The song has the echoey half-heard-half-dreamt quality that sounds take on during an afternoon nap, and moves with a queasy swagger, a giddy wind-up shudder like a broken music box falling down a tin staircase made of skulls. The stop-start lurch of the song belies the momentum underneath, a groove like a drunk doggedly hiccuping his way through a shaggy-dog story. Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich‘s guitars show up just in time in time for the second half of track two, “Behold a Marvel in the Darkness.” This is one of the more coherent songs on the album, but it still sounds like someone’s cobbled about three different songs together then stuck the whole lot on a little girl’s bicycle and pushed it down a hill. But then, if you know and love Deerhoof then you’ll know that that’s what you love about them.
“Super Duper Rescue Heads!” is the centrepiece of the album, a theme song both in the sense that it ties the themes of the album together and in the sense that if Deerhoof were professional wrestlers this is probably what they’d enter the ring to. As Kanye West says, every superhero needs his theme music. But whereas Kanye’s “no one man should have all that power” suggests the common trope where a superhero goes too far and becomes a tyrannical force menacing the society he once protected (in Kanye’s case, Twitter), Deerhoof’s “me… to the rescue! You… to the rescue!” suggests something more along the lines of a 1980s Japanese kids’ cartoon. Just as an aside, have you ever gone back and tracked down the theme songs from cartoons you used to love as a kid? I would advise against it. I did this a few years ago and was shocked, shocked to discover that tunes I had remembered fondly, if very vaguely, were in fact garbage. Especially the theme song to Cities of Gold, which for some reason I used to love. Utter garbage. Is this what they mean when they say you can never go home again? Is that what Satomi Matsuzaki means when she intones “How low, how low, you lucky so-and-so?” Probably not. In any case, “Super Duper Rescue Heads!” is a corker of a pop tune, all upbeat organ and cowbells and synths; it really does make you want to club together with the girl next door and venture out, flashlights in hand, in search of her missing puppy.
“I Did Crimes for You,” with it’s cutesy “This is a stick-up” hook, brings to mind the opening scene of Pulp Fiction, only if Honey Bunny and Pumpkin were actually a large pink cartoon rabbit and a goofy-but-lovable claymation butternut instead of a couple of stringy snaggletoothed gingers with bad skin. And in this version they’re stealing money so they can buy an ice cream van, from which they will distribute ice lollies and joy in equal measure. I don’t think we ever found out what the Tarantino’s Honey Bunny and Pumpkin were planning to spend the proceeds of their larceny on, but they probably blew it all on ointment and crystal meth.
Another highlight of the album comes with the straight-up rock tune “Secret Mobilization,” which for all the world could be a Journey song. Yes, it’s that good! Expect to see it on the X Factor soon. I can’t really see Simon Cowell getting his panties so wet over “C’Moon” though, as far as I can tell (and I should stress it’s been a LONG time since I took Japanese) it’s a Japanese nursery rhyme about a little girl who loses her parsnip, and sings out her window asking the parsnip spirit to bring her parsnip back. Or, it could be just that someone bet me I couldn’t use the word parsnip in a review more than once. Parsnip.
In conclusion I’d give this album four parsnips out of five (parsnips).