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Deerhoof’s 'The Magic' Riffs on Punk Rock, Soft Synths, and Oddities in Between

For a band that has stated in the past, “We don’t set out to create masterpieces,” Deerhoof sure has churned out quite a few over the course of their career as one of the preeminent indie rock groups of our time. Yet maybe the secret to noise rock cornerstones such as Apple O’ and Milk Man coming out within a few days shy of a year of each other is to be always considering the next movement; refraining from painstakingly obsessing over album sessions so that one’s creative spark never dampens. The four piece tours like there’s no tomorrow, takes a few months off to record, reliably coughs up an incredibly fresh faced record, then repeats the cycle.

“The Devil and His Anarchic Surrealist Retinue”

Deerhoof’s latest LP, The Magic, sets phasers to stun immediately. Opening track “The Devil and His Anarchic Surrealist Retinue” can go in the record books as one of the band’s best. They notoriously have developed a habit out of starting off records with barnburners (“Dummy Discards a Heart,” “The Perfect Me”) and the case is no different this time around. For such a showman on the drums, Greg Saunier uncommonly enough takes a backseat on this track, maintaining a no-frills gallop while letting the perfectly intertwined guitar work of Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich take the spotlight.


It just wouldn’t be a Deerhoof record if the band wasn’t meandering from style to style, genre busting their way through a track listing. Upholding tradition, they try on many different hats throughout the duration of The Magic. “That Ain’t No Life to Me” and “Dispossessor” carry on the punk/hardcore torch lit by the previous album’s “Exit Only.” The latter of the two would not seem any bit out of place were it to be included on Redd Kross’s 1982 debut Born Innocent. Forays into funk occur as frequently as in the past, so much so that “Life Is Suffering” makes unmistakable reference via guitar lick to Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing” – one of several writing choices the band has made surrounding the album’s recording that finds them in a particularly tributary mood, such as including a cover of The Ink Spots’ “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” and introducing Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” to their latest tour setlists.

“Criminals of the Dream”

Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals have always had a very soothing ethereal quality to them, and few songs in their repertoire like “Criminals of the Dream” have called on her pipes for such a fitting occasion. After a chugging middle section led by a way-badass distorted bass, the four return home to the opening dreamy synth phrase that started it all, marrying every piece together in a gorgeous extended outro while Matsuzaki coos, “Dream, you can dream…I know you can dream.” The song finds Deerhoof playing with every approach to intensity possible, and though five minutes doesn’t exactly warrant the title of “epic,” going through so many motions in that time really paints the song out to be a journey; bizarre, rewarding, and beautiful like the band itself.

Written by Ryan G