I feel confident in saying that everything Deerhoof composes and releases is magic. They finally got to the point and named their new record after the kind of musical trickery with which they’ve been stunning people for two decades now.
As the band’s Bandcamp page notes, The Magic was created when band members Satomi Matsuzaki (bass, lead vocals), Greg Saunier (drums), John Dietrich (guitar) and Ed Rodriguez (guitar) “rented out an abandoned office space in the middle of the New Mexico desert, set up, plugged in and played REALLY LOUD.” (The video for lead single “Debut” documents this process.) This spontaneity, and the comfortability with this spontaneity, is what separates Deerhoof from the rest of rock. The band works at their own creative pace, and it always results in something refreshing.
Several tracks on this record easily make the upper echelon of the best Deerhoof songs of all time. Satomi sings so nonchalantly on “Life is Suffering”, as she sings about screams of joy because “life is suffering, man”. Feed James Brown through a kaleidoscope and you get the funky art rock groove of “Model Behavior”.“Criminals of the Dream” is one of the sweetest tracks in their entire discography, with a dreamy incantation of “You can dream/Things aren’t as bad as they seem/I know you can dream.”
Deerhoof has always had a song or two from each album that take on a new life in the live performance, like “Come See The Duck” (Green Cosmos EP), “Dummy Discards A Heart” (Apple O’), and “We Do Parties” (Breakup Song), to name a few. The Magic adds to that list with “Plastic Thrills”, “Kafe Mania!”, and “Nurse Me”, all of which are sure to fuel the performing fire of the band and the fans.
When they said there were some hair metal influences on the record, it could have been easy to expect the worst. But the rollicking trio of “Learning To Apologize Effectively”, ”Dispossessor”, and “Acceptance Speech” (the songs most evidently influenced by the likes of Def Leppard) are ultimately flat-out awesome. The only really odd point of the record comes when Satomi, over a warbling synth mix, sings a cover of The Ink Spots’ “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire”. It’s a mysterious twist right in the middle of an otherwise really consistent record.
While nothing on this album really comes close to the jagged avant-garde songs of Deerhoof past, all of the song flow well and create a satisfying package. It’s almost impossible to rank The Magic among the rest of their catalog not only because every album is so unique, but also because each album has a different purpose. Their previous record (and one of the best of 2014) was La Isla Bonita, and that record, much like the fuzzed out graphics on the cover, was an experiment in dissonant pop that they crafted to be surprisingly catchy and danceable. The Magic, on the other hand, moved away from that comfort zone and resulted in some adventurous compositions that were ultimately influenced by some of the early influences on the band members.
As Satomi sings on “Criminals of the Dream”, “Wonder where the magic hides”. It’s safe to say that we all have the same reaction to The Magic, astounded by the magic that Deerhoof pulls out of a hat on every album.
Art Rock | Polyvinyl