Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita

The San Francisco group’s latest album is reminiscent of ‘60s French pop, especially on tracks like ‘Paradise Girls’ and ‘Doom’. However, the title of the latter seems an odd choice given its sweet and cheery nature. ‘Last Fad’ has similar pacing and instrumental refrains as St Vincent’s ‘Rattlesnake’. That being said, in terms of vocals, it differs drastically. Likewise, ‘Paradise Girls’ can be seen to give off a certain mystical St Vincent vibe in places. In fact, ‘Paradise Girls’ is a song that employs unusual percussion to great effect. It includes what sounds distinctly like a cowbell.

Each of the tracks featured on La Isla Bonita display the distinct sugary tone that Deerhoof are renowned for. However, while this constant tone can be picked out throughout the album, the level of sweetness varies. For example, ‘Exit Only’ seems a bizarre hybrid of punk and Japanese pop, featuring simple chirpy vocals and screeching guitars. It seems a nod towards the likes of Peaches. Indeed, the band have cited the Ramones amongst their influences and have also proven to be quite popular in Japan. Equally, ‘Big House Waltz’ is a track that slowly builds with distorted speech and vocals, while accompanied by unusual guitar riffs. Comparatively, ‘Tiny Bubbles’ is a slower and less frantic track, while ‘God 2’ makes for a further contrast as a short and entirely instrumental interlude.
‘Black Pitch’ is a somewhat sinister song with a refrain of “we gonna want you…24/7” eerily repeated on a loop. Equally, ‘Mirror Monster’ is a haunting track complete with unnerving whispering threaded throughout its melody.

‘Oh Bummer’ employs a more unusual beat alongside a crooning male voice, which is a contrast to most of the album’s chirpy female vocals. The track ends almost painfully with a high screeching.

Deerhoof have now hit two decades on the music scene (although the members have not been constant during this time), so it is impressive that they are still present and producing new and interesting material.

Overall, with influences ranging far and wide, it is easy to see why the band are often described as ‘quirky’. However, this seems a bit of a cop out, a lazy way of trying to describe their distinctive sound.

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