Album Review: Deerhoof – The Magic

Continuing our round-up of great albums released while we were offline, we have the 16th album from San Francisco innovators Deerhoof:

There can be few bands that have managed to stay so creative, vital and constantly shifting as Deerhoof.  Over the course of sixteen albums they’ve continued to push their sound in new and unusual directions, throwing in elements of punk, jazz, avant-garde, funk, kitsch retro pop and just about anything else they can get their hands on to create a sound that is rarely the same but always recognisably their own.  The latest addition to their hefty back catalogue, The Magic, is another wonderful odyssey into the unknown.

As long-term fans might expect, it’s full of restless, shape-shifting delights: It kicks off with obtusely titled opener ‘The Devil and His Anarchic Surrealist Retinue’, formed like an unusual sedimentary rock formation from layers that seem to have no business coexisting: twinkles of guitar, shuffling rockabilly drums, stabbing bass, synth washes and Satomi Matsuzaki’s ethereal vocal; but somehow it creates an alien landscape that whilst by no means coherent, is absolutely wondrous.  They follow it up with ‘Kafe Mania!’, welding a rumbling rhythm section to 80s horror movie synths and cute staccato vocals before throwing a fastball with the heads-down garage grunge punk blast of ‘That Ain’t No Life To Me’, just to keep us on our toes.

It’s rare for an album to have so many ideas thrown at it without drowning in a flood of directionless noodling but like expert shepherds, Deerhoof herd the fragments into free-range wonders.

It doesn’t work every single time; ‘Patrasche Come Back’ is a rare miss-step, while Monroe-esque wonky love song ‘I Don’t Want to Set The World On Fire’ is a little too cute for its own good, but after a minute and a half they’re back on form with the soaring ‘Acceptance Speech’ and ‘Debut’, a masterful mash-up of antagonistic clanging guitars, funky bass and schoolyard vocal play which leads into glam rock stomper ‘Plastic Thrills’.

Listening to The Magic is like navigating a maze, with all of the disorientation, twists, turns and the sense of fulfilment and joy once you emerge that implies.  Eclectic in the finest sense of the word, this is an album of awe and wonder that will keep you guessing right up to the final note.

Review by Paul Maps

The Magic is out now on Upset The Rhythm Records.  Watch the video for ‘The Devil and His Anarchic Surrealist Retinue’ below:

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