Smile Politely

Deerhoof: Fighting evil with exuberance

Art rock misfits Deerhoof will take the stage on Saturday at 9:10 p.m. at Highdive, the final set before the much-anticipated Braid performance. While new to the Polyvinyl family, having just departed Kill Rock Stars for the release of their 2011 album Deerhoof vs. Evil, Deerhoof bring with them over fifteen years of experience and evolution, with a mastery of the offbeat and the aurally epic that lands them somewhere between musical virtuosos and garage rock pranksters.

Deerhoof grew out of an impulse, an urge, the stubbornness of two guys who refused to stop playing despite the sudden departure of half their band. When Greg Saunier and former bassist Rob Fisk’s post-college experiment Nitre Pit died an early death, they performed alone, channeling grunge and psychedelic to push past the absence of supporting musicians. This birthright — a drum kit, a bass guitar, and hardly a rehearsed song to their name — is still evident in Deerhoof’s live shows, which are antic, high-energy affairs, spiked with experimentation and the playfulness of a band who, after nearly fifteen years, still haven’t tired of each other.

Since those early days, Deerhoof has passed through several other talented members, settling into a quartet with Saunier, John Dieterich, Ed Rodriguez, and Satomi Matsuzaki. After so many years of lineup changes, waxing and waning album sales, and many passes through the revolving door of critics’ praises, Deerhoof’s current lineup has found a sound that balances experimentation with melody, with a tad of Sleigh Bells’ affection for noise, a dash of the Flaming Lips’ affinity for the bizarre, and a spirited disregard for continuity that is all their own.

Deerhoof play experimental rock that’s never moody, rock that wails and booms and squeals without indulging in a moment of instrumental masturbation. Out of distorted guitars and spastic drums rise Matsuzaki’s childlike vocals, skipping and hopping through songs that never seem to take themselves seriously. From this divested sound emerges an easy rhythm, a sometimes-cacophonous collision of beats that is surprisingly thoughtful. It’s a theater of antithesis, with harmony taking turns with discord and calm giving way to chaos. It’s noisy. It’s lighthearted. It’s unrestrained.

On Saturday, expect experimentation, expect diversion, expect unrecognizable musical interludes that evolve into the closest thing Deerhoof has to a sing-along — Matsuzaki commanding, “Cry out, cry out!” on the delightfully spasmodic “The Perfect Me,” or maybe the nearly incomprehensible zippy lines of “Twin Killers.” Whether they pull from their most recent album or reach deep into the depths of their musical past, they’re going to have a damn good time, and the only sane thing to do is to let yourself play along.

More Articles