Deerhoof // Breakup Song // September 3 // ATP Recordings
In their lifetime Deerhoof have worked within two mediums: noise and pop music. It’s amazing just how they managed to not repeat themselves throughout the 11 albums they’ve released since their inception in 1994. In this regard, rest easy. Their 12th effort Breakup Song stands out just like the rest of them. However, taking in mind all the good stuff that it has to offer, Breakup Song might be one of their most unfocused records yet.
While you might think of noise music as something linear and relying on concepts, Deerhoof have never gone around things that way. They always focused on songs which can hurt as without concepts a bad song is just that, a bad song without a way to save it or make it seem important. Breakup Song has some great moments but it also slums towards the later parts of the album. Despite that, it’s their most carefree effort in a while, the noise part only coming through their aesthetic of more means everything and raw production style. The album cover states that the record is full of “noise jingles for parties!”. Jingles is right as the highlights on here are the closest that one can get to Deerhoof version of a hit single. Bad Kids To The Front and Flower feature steady rhythms and trance keyboards that work towards their disorienting catchiness. The title song and The Trouble With Candyhands feature vocal hooks that are as good as any pop, mainstream or otherwise.
15 years ago Deerhoof have released their debut LP The Man, The King, The Girl which put them among the most uncompromising noise bands on the western shores. Breakup Song manages to sound both like logical evolution and nothing like you’d expected them to end up sounding all these years ago. Breakup Song is definitely Deerhoof’s most accessible record yet. The guitars, drums and keyboards work towards making music that is catchy and easy on the ear for anyone who is into left field pop. Not to say that Breakup Song is some sort of an emancipation. The record is sketchy in places and definitely sketchy in its approach to songwriting. None of the tracks on here follow a predictable path, twisting and mangling their way across. It keeps the listener engaged but it doesn’t deliver the goods. If there is a part in a certain song that you love don’t expect Deerhoof to linger on and repeat that part, they’ve already moved on. Breakup Song should’ve been called Break Up Song in the way that Deerhoof approach songwriting with needles and glue in hand. It’s not a difficult record but it’s the one that will leave listener behind in a blink of an eye as soon as listener loosens their focus on what the band is doing.
Then there’s moments that don’t really do pop which feels more out of place than anything else on this weird but enjoyable LP. Mothball The Fleet is one of the few moments on here that isn’t darting around all over the shop while Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III does exactly what its title suggest - works as 3 different songs at the same time, none of them being pop enough for the record that is focused on the accessible. The record closes with Fete d’Adieu, the first and only linear three minute pop song. Breakup Song is only half an hour long but with so many ideas packed into 12th album by a veteran cult band, you won’t be complaining about the length. You’ll be too busy trying to find every single song within another song.