Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 223 - 11/06/14

La Isla Bonita

'Blame it on the Ramones. After Deerhoof finished recording demos for La Isla Bonita this past February, they began rehearsing for an upcoming tour. Halfway through a run-through of a long-time Deerhoof live favourite, their cover of the Ramones classic "Pinhead," someone offhandedly asked, "Why don't we ever write a song like this?" So Greg quickly dashed off a song on a scrap of paper, showed it to the band, and they recorded the breakneck stomper "Exit Only" in one take.' (Polyvinyl). So the story goes. And here is the result. Both that song and the album.

Deerhoof has been a favourite of mine for many years. I thought they were gone after last album (2012's Breakup Song), at least for me. The band has been going for 20 years, and La Isla Bonita is their 12th (!) album. Their new record show a band as playful and whimsical as only Deerhoof can be. Welcome back, Satomi (bass and vocals), John (guitar), Greg (drums) and Ed (guitar)! It's tempting to quote the musician/songwriter Graham Coxon (of Blur fame), when he says Deerhoof are sounding: ' 12 year olds trying to be the Who, which is no bad thing'. Or, maybe even the description given by The Flaming Lips' ex-drummer, Kliph Scurlock: 'I realised what it was like for our parents to hear the Beatles for the first time' (on Friend Opportunity). Magical mystery hoof! Or, maybe: Deerhoof in the sky with diamonds.

It has been a couple of busy years for the foursome (since last album). John Dieterich has recorded as Bad News from Houston (along with one Thollem McDonas, resulting in 2013's In The Valley Of The Cloudbuilder); Greg Saunier (Deerhoof's founder along with the then bass player, Rob Fisk) teamed up with Sean Lennon (who has been involved with various bands/projects, as well as a solo career, such as Cibo Matto and The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger) for the project/band Mystical Weapons; Satomi Matsuzaki has played a few solo shows (but without releasing anything, except contributing to a track or two for other artists. Some years back she had the band project Oneone - along with Saya Ueno - and they put out an album, back in 2009), including one at Philip Glass' Philippines benefit concert; Ed Rodriguez has been doing some remix work. Now, it's time for a beautiful island with more of Deerhoof's music - La Isla Bonita.

La Isla Bonita (recorded live by the band in Ed's basement) is an excellent, thrilling album. Here's more of the trademark Deerhoof tunes: twisted and noisy pop. Their music got this certain edge. Their songs are catchy, as well as being gripping, amusing and (sometimes) hard to catch. The vocals, the drum beat (rhythms) and the guitars often run off in different directions, and it all makes sense! I guess it can be hard to love them, but when you do so, you cannot let them go. Deerhoof is hard to tag, or label, but their special blend is like a rough mixture of The Residents and DEVO, Half Japanese, The Slits and Pizzicato Five. Just go through the ten tracks off La Isla Bonita, and you will probably love them all. From the spastic opener "Paradise Girls", via the spellbinding "Mirror Monster", through the exotic "Doom", the wild'n'wonderful "Last Fad", the 'different' "Tiny Bubbles", the hard-rocking "Exit Only", to the magic "Big House Waltz", the bouncy and frantic "God 2", the no pitch-black "Black Pitch", and finally comes the elegant and mystic closer, "Oh Bummer". What a treat! Hats off to Deerhoof!

A fitting, final quote can be from Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead has toured with Deerhoof): 'They have a childlike quality to their melodies...[...]..they struck me as being the successors to Soft Machine - their music is equally ambitious, but, like Soft Machine, they have a child-like quality to their melodies.' Or, maybe we should see what the band themselves go for when 'hitting' their fans, like said by Greg Saunier: "We don't set out to create masterpieces. The Deerhoof fan is a thrill-seeker.". And, finally here's what their label Polyvinyl say: "...what is Deerhoof really? Hell if we know." To be honest I do not know myself. This is just good stuff, and they're a one-of-a-kind band.

Copyright © 2014 Deerhåvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Deerhoof articles/reviews: Deerhoof vs. Evil, Friend Opportunity, Halfbird, Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, 10.2.06, Offend Maggie, The Magic.

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