A Walk Through Deerhoof's 20 Oddball Years

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Deerhoof (from left, John Dieterich, Greg Saunier, Satomi Matsuzaki and Ed Rodriguez); Photo courtesy of band's Facebook.

One way you can note a band for their enduring quality is by their endless arsenal of ideas. For 20 years Deerhoof have released a delightful stream of unorthodox albums that throw notions of genre into disarray and, so far, they have yet to repeat themselves. Throughout their career they’ve toured with high-caliber artists such as Radiohead, Wilco, The Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth.

Now, this Bay Area-born band is set to play the Great American Music Hall on November 18 in support of their latest effort La Isla Bonita and fans may rejoice to their triumphant return.

In an attempt to characterize their bizarre sound for those unfamiliar with them, one could describe Deerhoof as a whimsical storm of sugar and spikes. Half the time they will blast you away with their erratic volume and pace, while the other half is spent reeling you in with saccharine melodies.

Satomi Matsuzaki featured above, photo courtesy of band's Facebook page.
Satomi Matsuzaki; Photo from the band's Facebook page.

They manage this through a quirky combo of Satomi Matsuzaki’s cheekily high-pitched vocals with restless high-energy rock compositions. Most of their songs are under three minutes, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t full to the brim with delectable hooks and varying dynamics.


Throughout their catalog, Deerhoof have put out fine examples of clamorous rock and joyous pop, all the while refusing to stay still in one pool without jumping to the next. They don’t sound like a typical punk band but certainly carry its unabashed spirit for doing whatever they want.

Deerhoof's lengthy discography is worth checking out, but to make things easier, here is a brief survey through some of their high points.

Deerhoof’s 1997 debut LP The Man, The King, The Girl is by no means accessible or their greatest, but for a fan it’s worth checking out to acknowledge their unruly roots. The album hints at all the elements that would make the band notable in the future, including their jumpiness with volume, speed, and off-kilter pop melodies.

2002’s Reveille is where they first entered the forefront as an unquestionably maniacal, yet tuneful band with an endearing sort of chaos that you can tap your foot to. The album's mythical opening lyrics “The trumpet scatters its awful sound / Over the graves of all lands / Summoning all before the throne / death and mankind shall be stunned” certainly set the tone.

Album cover for The Runners Four
Album cover for The Runners Four

It’s hard to digest upon first listen, yet anyone with a love of The Beatles’ more experimental excursions and a high tolerance for noise can find it appealing. Subsequent albums Apple O’ and Milk Man are equally erratic, but toned down to more accessible degrees.

The Runners Four, released in 2005, is unique for being significantly more minimal, lyrical, and subdued than anything Deerhoof had released previously. Unique in their discography, each band member takes turns with vocals and some instrumental roles are reversed. Tracks “Odyssey,” “You Can See” and “Siriustar” are highlights.

2007’s Friend Opportunity is Deerhoof at their peak. The album features diverse instrumentation, including trumpets and keyboards. The compositions are controlled and dutifully organized. “Whither the Invisible Birds?” is a soft and cinematic rhapsody. “Matchbook Seeks Maniac” plays a triumphant chorus that takes the album to lofty heights.

Although Friend Opportunity was arguably Deerhoof’s champion statement, their releases following it have a similar maturity of style. Offend Maggie, Deerhoof vs. Evil and the danceable tunes of Breakup Songs all offer different perspectives to enjoy this band’s eclectic sound.

Album cover for La Isla Bonita, released November 4th on Polyvinyl Records.
Album cover for La Isla Bonita, released November 4, 2014 on Polyvinyl Records.

Their latest LP La Isla Bonita, released November 4, is a walk away from the synth-charged direction of Breakup Songs and a return to their more raucous leanings.

The band scattered a few years back, relocating to four different cities and continuing their collaboration long distance. Catch Deerhoof when it returns to native soil.

Deerhoof plays November 18, 2014 at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. For tickets and information visit slimspresents.com.