Album Review: Deerhoof – Breakup Song

Immediately, staccato blasts of stuttering distortion emanate from the speakers. Opener “Breakup Songs” (yes in the plural although it’s a single song, as opposed to the singular noun in the album title, Breakup Song, though an album is a collection of songs) could be considered, like many Deerhoof songs, an expressionist poem, a meditation, on a topic–in this case, a breakup, or maybe it’s breakup songs. Lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki repetitively intones, “When you say it’s all over,” over disjointed instrumentation. That’s what every breakup feels like, right? It’s one hell of a first impression for another solid album by this band.

Deerhoof has given experimental pop lovers a slew of albums over the years and have garnered a wide following of fans, including some of music’s most notable critics. During SXSW writer Michael Azerrad tweeted, “Deerhoof is one of the great rock bands of our time,” on the day that the band played the increasingly popular Mess With Texas Fest. That event is curated by Transmission Entertainment, the same folks behind the now huge Fun Fun Fun Fest, so it follows that Deerhoof is set to perform at this year’s installment of FFF during the first week in November.

Breakup Song‘s individual tracks, even the parts contained within differ wildly. The chorus of “Flower” floats liltingly as Matsuzaki sings, “Let it go, leave it all behind,” while the track that follows, “To Fly or Not to Fly,” begins with 80s-esque, new wavey, synths and dissolves into a terrifying, ominous barrage of sound. “The Trouble with Candyhands” emerges as one of the albums most entertaining with its mambo brass, cowbell, and infectious chorus. Each song is distinct and memorable, and I’m always amazed at how much divergent yet unified sound Deerhoof fits into a single song, especially since the longest song clocks in at 3:20.

However, Deerhoof saves the best for last. From the opening guitar tone of “Fête d’Adieu,” to the simple upbeat chorus to the entrancing refrain where Matsuzaki powerfully commands, “I declare the war over, anymore,” the track earns its place as my favorite on the album. A friend once suggested to me that the best way to combat war wasn’t to protest or engage in the raging and depressing, often fruitless debate; rather, the way to combat war is simply to create art that inspires joy. Either way, Deerhoof has its bases covered because they do both on Breakup Song.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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