Underground art-rock icons Deerhoof have gone through many lineups and styles since their inception in the early 1990s. Each of these metamorphoses, from jittery spazz-popsters to acerbic rockers, has brought them closer and closer to mainstream appeal and regardless of whether or not the band wishes to embrace that element, they have at least one foot firmly on the doorstep with the release of Friend Opportunity.
"The Perfect Me" is a fierce, jittery foray into Enon-inspired spasmodic funk - thanks in no small part to the brilliant drumming of Greg Saunier - and with this 2 minute 40 second track, their artistic aptitude is expertly focused and the template for the album's remainder is established. Satomi Matsuzaki's vocals, ever detached in the most peculiar fashion, promise to infect each track with innocense and sensuality juxtaposed, and John Dieterich's axe work shouts out that it will complement the rhythm section's every ebb and flow. Sure enough, the band succeeds throughout. When Saunier starts churning up the beat like children's legs at the side of a pool during swimming lessons, the others grab their kickboards and just ride the waves. "Cast Off Crown" erupts like Mount Vesuvius and breaks down as the glitchy ashes fall gently from the sky. "+81," meanwhile, may quite simply be the catchiest Deerhoof song ever, mixing trumpets, severe grooves, and a chorus of 'choo-choo-choo-choo/beep beep.' You'd surely pull out your lighter if you knew what the hell was going on with that chorus.
Of course, what would the album of a scattered band be without the downtempo acoustic-y numbers? "The Galaxist" and "Whither the Invisible" are a couple of the band's most elegant songs, each foresaking being inherently challenging for oddly beautiful melodies that evoke anyone from Björk to the Fiery Furnaces. As for the other tracks, every idiosyncracy is covered, from gyrating pet/owner metaphors complete with dog yelp samples ("Kidz Are So Small") to beats that seem to auto-asphyxiate at will as the song surprisingly is able to progress ("Choco Fight"). These songs typify the Deerhoof that people are used to: certainly intelligent, undeniably unique, but difficult to fully enjoy and appreciate. The nearly 12 minute closer "Look Away" doesn't gain the band any bonus points either, especially since the song is textbook musical masturbation.
Nevertheless, Friend Opportunity represents one of Deerhoof's finest works to date and certainly their most accessible. Honestly, if any spring mixes are made to include "+81" or "The Perfect Me" as openers, fans will be won, friends will be made, and potential mates will probably think you're an edgy lunatic (which would hopefully be what you are going for). Apart from the enigmatic brilliance of the single-ready tracks, the album, in the end, forms itself together in a mostly satisfying entity, sonic interval training your ears will likely thank you for after completing.
Release date: January 23, 2007
Label: Kill Rock Stars
Rating: 7.8 / 10
On the web: http://www.deerhoof.com
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