Two-thousand and nineteen marked Deerhoof’s 25th year anniversary, an impressive milestone for a marriage nevermind a band. While no new albums were announced last year, they did reissue their first three albums on vinyl for the first time and on the three labels that have supported them the most. The Man, the King, the Girl was reissued via Polyvinyl, Holdypaws by Kill Rock Stars, and Halfbird by current label hosts Joyful Noise. In year 26, the iteration of Matsuzaki, Saunier, Dieterich, and Rodríguez, who themselves celebrate 12 years together, release their first album since 2017’s Mountain Moves. True to form, the band donated proceeds from the album to the Emergent Fund whose goal it is to support communities who “continue to be under attack by federal policies and priorities – immigrants, women, Muslim and Arab-American communities, Black people, Indigenous communities, LGBTQ communities, and all people of color.” While the band name Deerhoof may not conjure the same sort of political imagery as say Dylan in the 60’s or Rage Against the Machine in the 90’s, they are, nonetheless, as a collective, aware of the hegemony and injustices alive and well in this country in 2020. As such their latest release Future Teenage Cave Artists seeks to awaken the senses by way of pop hooks, political prose, and their signature weirdo deep dives comprised of herks, jerks, and wild falsetto wanderings.
Batting leadoff with pop is the hit title track “Future Teenage Cave Artists.” As has come to define the last decade of Deerhoof releases, a signature sound permeates the album and in this case the wobbly turntable tremolo guitar effects soak the overall sound of this oxymoronic masterwork. As with any reputable lineup, track 2 can hit for pop power with the best of them, only with less flash. “Sympathy for the Baby Boo” offers a slower burn but smokes nonetheless with Matsuzaki’s breathy delivery and classic rock solo grinds from Rodriguez and Dieterich. All the while, Saunier jitters and jumps with stochastic precision atop the kit–vintage Hoof. Now surrounded indefinitely by the aural forest of Future Teenage Cave Artists your agency for change melts away in favor of a slovenly passivity for the music. Upon reaching equilibrium, funky beats float flim-flam lyrics that burn truth and spin strains unlike any heard on the local transmissions. Slowly settling in upon the furnace hum and signalling descent, “New Orphan Asylum for Spirited Deerchildren” unwraps the tattered tourniquet keeping us whole and pulsing.
If you’ve made it to “Reduced Guilt” without shifting in your seat or adjusting your headphones then you’ve officially obtained personal enlightenment. How do you know? Well because you’ve been subsequently rewarded with the glorious “Damaged Eyes Squinting into the Beautiful Overhot Sun” with its multilayered guitars and harmonizing vocal parts washing over you like a hot static tsunami of sonic salty chuck. As the waves recede they strip away the layers and leave but one, a lone piano playing Bach’s “I Call On Thee” as the dim light fades to black.