Deerhoof playfully brushes off Breakup

Breakup Song just wants to keep dancing.

By Max Hill

Advertising their new album as “noise jingles for parties,” Deerhoof doesn’t disappoint. Indeed, 2012’s Breakup Song is as close to a dance record as the group is going to get. It’s unmistakably a Deerhoof record: inventive, aggressive, and noisy, with bright, summery pop milling just underneath the surface. There are elements of jazz, classical, chiptune, noise, and even rumba to be found in the L.P.’s painfully short 29 minutes, but each song feels cohesive, as though these genre elements were meant to blend together effortlessly.

Tokyo-born Satomi Matsuzaki — whose endearingly accented vocals reminds one of BMO from the cartoon Adventure Time — is full of childlike energy throughout the album: she brushes off a breakup in the title track with “You say it’s over/Hell yeah/Hell yeah/Anyway,” setting the stage for a record that doesn’t see the end of a relationship as a setback, but as an opportunity. Her sweet accompaniment to the band’s usual boundary-pushing sonic experiments toe a line treaded many times before by Deerhoof: cute versus aggressive, innocent versus dangerous.

The band is well-known for refusing to repeat itself, and Breakup Song stands alone amongst their last few records, substituting carefully written and recorded songs for DIY- spirit and reckless abandon. This is definitely a good thing: Deerhoof is at its best when it embraces its pop leanings and just lets itself go. The album was allegedly written and recorded within the space of a few months, and it shows: there’s a sense of spontaneity throughout, suggesting a band comfortable enough with themselves and their image to be able to let loose and improvise. Tracks like “The Trouble With Candyhands” and “There’s That Grin” change melodies and shift moods almost at the drop of a hat; it’s as though the band were so excited about all of their ideas that they couldn’t commit to one for more than five seconds without moving to the next. Breakup Song is the kid at the party who’s still dancing long after the lights have gone out, and often it’s hard not to get up and join in.

The second half of Breakup Song is undeniably stronger than the first: the one-two punch of “Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III” and album closer “Fête d’Adieu” might be the record’s best passage, whereas weaker tracks like “Bad Kids to the Front” and “Zero Second Pause” turn up much earlier. Some might also find the album’s unwillingness to take a break exhausting. However, fans of the band will surely be satisfied: there’s a lot to love here for those who’ve been with the group since their Apple O’ days. For listeners who are still new to Deerhoof, and don’t mind a little sugar in their cereal, Breakup Song is a great introduction to the idiosyncrasy the band is known and loved for. The album is short but sweet, and you’ll probably find yourself wanting to listen again as soon as it’s over.