Actually, You Can by Deerhoof Album album review by Greg Walker for Northern Transmissions


Actually, You Can


I have always found Joyful Noise Records, the indie weird label with the likes of Joan of Arc and Kishi Bashi, to be a reliable place to find some of the best genre-defying music in indie rock. In 2017, the melody rich, sonically mind blowing album Mountain Moves put their label mate Deerhoof on my radar. Actually, it became for me a kind of template of what modern rock COULD be. It was a near perfect album that I listened to in my car (when it had a CD player), ad infinitum.

Yesterday, Deerhoof came out with their third album in almost a year’s time, called Actually, You Can. It’s more than a response to the “I can’t do it” attitude, it’s a manifesto for a new world that is not controlled by capitalist, patriarchal gatekeepers, and encouragement that there is hope for a new world, not made in the image of the imperialists that make up most of history. “Think of all the beauty, positivity and love that gets deemed ugly, negative and hateful by the self-proclaimed guardians of ‘common sense.’ We’d hardly be destroying society by dismantling their colonial economics and prisons and gender roles and aesthetics. We’d be creating it!” from the band’s Bandcamp liner notes.

Deerhoof are not one to spoon-feed you political treatises, however, and their art is usually a combination of whacking out a number of different genres and taking from art, varying from the “Divine Comedy” to Dr. Suess. “If we only have planted onions / How are these tomatoes all growing? / The refrigerator is so well stocked,” they sing on the opening track, “Be Unbarred, O Ye Gates of Hell,” a lyric that is taken from a quote by Maya Angelou. It is this kind of imaginative juxtaposition that makes Deerhoof the intelligent, innovative band that they are.

The second song, “Department of Corrections,” takes on our nation’s industrial prison complex. “My jailer hot-rodded my engines / already rumbling around the room.” “Agenda unknown.” Plant life is important to this album, signified by the thrilling cover art by Paul Wackers, and on “Plant Thief,” Satomi Matsuzaki laments, “Someone’s cooking with my spices! / They never weren’t,” in perhaps a critique of the imperial spice trade that upended indigenous people groups throughout the world.

The album is more guitar heavy than many of their albums, what Sadie calls “arpeggiated muscularity” and “rococo garage.” On this album, it was agreed that there would just be four main parts, two guitars, a bass, and Greg Saunier’s mind blowing drums, with the express purpose that they could play these songs live together. Their penchant for pop is in tact on this record, with Satomi’s genius melody lines, but it is Rodriguez and Dieterich’s shredding guitars that takes the spotlight on this record.

Art is not made in a vacuum, and history and future-casting are all over this album. It’s nice to have Sadie’s well-written essay as a companion to this album, and with the album’s title, you imagine a world where your wildest dreams and unadulterated joys are possible. That is what a band like Deerhoof accomplish through their art. Even after a good slew of records, they’re able to come out with something still fresh and always inspiring and deep. We might not be able to play our instruments or write a song as amazing as Deerhoof, one of the best bands on the planet, but we too can make a difference in this challenging but ever-ripe world.

Order Actually, You Can by Deerhoof HERE


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