Deerhoof Breakup Song Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

The quartet’s 11th album makes a breakup sound like the most fun you could possibly have

Jude Clarke 2012

Despite the title, Breakup Song is no sombre lament for lost love. This Japanese/American quartet has always brought an irreverent approach to their music making, and this 11th album follows suit.

This joyous noise and pandemonium evokes more the excitement of that first flush of romance than the heartbreak of its ending. Although the (near) title track Breakup Songs and several other numbers (There’s That Grin, The Trouble With Candyhands, We Do Parties) do allude to relationships, the overriding theme of the album can be found more in its musical style than in individual songs’ lyrics.  

Deerhoof are expert at rooting their music in a basic rhythm or refrain and then taking themselves and the listener on a trip that seems chaotic but is always somehow reassuringly anchored on a firm base. Take Bad Kids to the Front, for example. The track’s skittering synths and scattered drum beats are allowed free rein, while all the time the repeated “You don’t know / What song I could sing inside” refrain keeps things grounded. A similar thing happens with the organised dissonance of Breakup Songs, or There’s That Grin’s rhythmic, almost funky beat.

Because of this, the many playfully anarchic moments here, which in other hands might make for a challenging listen, are endearing and thrilling. Their noise band roots peek through in parts of To Fly or Not to Fly and We Do Parties, offsetting the whimsy of tracks like Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III (a glitchy tribute to old-style video games) and …Candyhands’ samba-like celebratory mood.  

Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals provide a sugar-sweet dusting over these songs, her endearing Japanese accent further softening the mood, and matching Mothball the Fleet’s oriental shimmer with its high, true tones. The accessible groove of Flower and party-time refrain of …Candyhands make for just two more standout moments on this terrific album that appears to achieve the impossible: making a breakup sound like just the most fun you could possibly have.

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