Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Music Library: Deee-Lite, Deep Purple, Deerhoof

Deee-Lite - World Clique. Ubiquitous in my first year of college! I actually sorta like the whole funk-disco album, but I'm not often feeling the right mood for it.

Deep Purple - "Hush" and "River Deep, Mountain High." If you didn't know that these guys would go on to be a Spinal Tap-ish British metal band, these tracks would lead you to think they were a great Nuggets band. "Hush" is a killer track all the way through. Their version of "River Deep, Mountain High" is a little too far into the portentious/Stonehenge side of blues-based British music, but once it gets going, it's definitely fun. Wish I had the original of "Highway Star" to round it out.


  • "The Pick-Up Bear," Holdy Paws and Halfbird. Never picked up the first Deerhoof album The Man, The King, The Girl. These are the 2nd and 3rd albums, both with the original guitarist Rob Fisk. Halfbird, the 3rd album, was actually recorded prior to Holdy Paws. Both feature quite a bit of the jagged Deerhoof style, although Holdy Paws is far more song-oriented than Halfbird. "The Pick-Up Bear" is an early (1995) single from a compilation. Don't know the line-up on that, but it's an unholy mess of skronk.

  • "Appetite" and "Blood On The Floor" (from In Formation: A Tribute To Throbbing Gristle). After Fisk left the band, Deerhoof recruited John Dieterich, who has remained Deerhoof's primary guitarist since. These two tracks, a contribution to an indie movie I've never seen called Charm and a Throbbing Gristle cover, would have been the first releases from the new Deerhoof in 2001. They don't much sound like the Deerhoof to come, the former featuring more-or-less ambient music with noise on top and the latter being a stripped-down song with Satomi Matsuzaki singing and playing bass while the others make noise on what sounds like children's instruments.

  • Reveille and "Sweet Knight Brugmansia." A quantum leap forward, Reveille is the sound of Deerhoof grasping transcendence. After a short intro, the band cranks into "This Magnificent Bird Will Rise," a statement of purpose signalling that the new Deerhoof is reborn, phoenix-like, with a purpose far greater than avant-noise skronk, although they're far from leaving it behind. But "This Magnificent Bird" is the first song that captures their kitchen-sink approach that combines the skronk with pure and lovely pop, hairpin turns, silly noises, and a sweetness that more or less caramelizes before your very eyes. Awesome, awesome, awesome. The single is from a collection called If the Twenty-First Century Didn't Exist It Would Be Necessary to Invent It. I gotta say that I like how Deerhoof doesn't just recycle album tracks for compilations, but instead record and release a new song, even if it's an ungodly mess.

  • Apple O'. The follow-up to Reveille takes on love and creation. It's brilliant and fun (two words that will frequently describe the upcoming Deerhoof albums!), and was apparently mostly recorded in a single day. That sounds right; it has that sort of light feel of friends making music on the fly. And "Panda Panda Panda" is one of my favorite songs, despite its inherent and necessary silliness. Oh, and they've added a second guitarist, Chris Cohen, on this album. The twin-guitar chicanery adds to the fun. The album ends with a couple of acoustic tracks that were recorded later.

  • Milk Man and Bibidi Babidi Boo. Milk Man is my favorite Deerhoof album. It's a concept album about the title character, a mythical being who steals children into his dreamland (as depicted on the album cover, he's a pretty scary dude despite the cuteness of the fruit that pierces his body). Building on the stripped down two-guitar rock of Apple O', Milk Man is both more rocking and more subtle and adds more instrumentation and the creativity on display is rather overwhelming. I love the hell out of it. Bibidi Babidi Boo was a free online EP of live tracks from around the same time that includes a few Peel Sessions.

  • Green Cosmos and "Weak In The Knees". Green Cosmos is a fun EP that has Matsuzaki singing in her native Japanese. It's skronkier than Milk Man, but also more willing to resort to odd studio tricks that hit my ear in just the right place. Milk Man's a stronger album, but this is a great little dessert. The single is from a collection called My Malady, and it has the same sort of thrown-together feel as many of their non-album singles.

  • The Runners Four. About twice as long as every album that preceded it, The Runners Four takes its time visiting all the little nooks and crannies that make Deerhoof so interesting and fun. Lots of great pop songs, ambient jamming, skronky eruptions (that somehow end up being as catchy as the out-and-out hooks), usually within the same song.

  • EP and "Chi-Tan First Guitar." The EP was a free online gift from Deerhoof on the occasion of Chris Cohen's leaving the band. It's all one track, including a cover of the Beatles' "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill," Canned Heat's "Goin' Up the Country," and songs by My Bloody Valentine and Herman's Hermits, all interspersed with live versions of Deerhoof's own tracks over a fun 20-odd minutes. The single is mopey piece from a Kill Rock Stars sampler.

  • +81, Friend Opportunity, and 2007 Free EP. With Chris Cohen gone, Deerhoof was back to being a three-piece. +81 is an EP with the first single from Friend Opportunity plus four tracks from Deerhoof's prior era as a three-piece, around the time of Reveille. Friend Opportunity, which was released a month or so later, adds more rock and funk to the Deerhoof sound, coming up with something that is most definitely related to prog-rock without actually being prog-rock. Great, great stuff, although the somewhat formless nearly-12 minute closer is a misstep, especially following the sublime "Matchboook Seeks Maniac." The 2007 Free EP is another collection of odds and ends that turned up at the Deerhoof website in September 2007. One of the most fun tracks is a hip-hop mashup featuring "Believe E.S.P." that the band found online.

  • Offend Maggie. Deerhoof added a new 2nd guitarist, Edward Rodriguez from (among other bands) The Flying Luttenbachers, for their 2008 album Offend Maggie. I didn't much cotton to this one at first. Maybe it was the occasional AC/DC-soundalike riffage. Maybe it was just that it didn't sound like a great leap away from the past and I had reached Deerhoof saturation. Maybe I just needed to give it more time. Whatever the reason, I sure like it now, although it's still not one of my favorites.


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