There is no better example of a band who has consistently done whatever it has wanted as Deerhoof. Since the early 1990s the San Francisco based act has crafted album after album of timeless rock music and by timeless, the kind of music that can’t easily be categorized or recognized as from any specific era. This description rings truer than ever on the bands latest and sixteenth studio album, Future Teenage Cave Artists. Held together by the concept of a future where everything is broken, the systems that have been in place forever are now shattered and features songs that simultaneously eulogize this prior way of life and celebrate the newness and unknowingness of what is to come. Future Teenage Cave Artists also highlights Deerhoof at their most contradictory. The songs are rebellious, intimate, mournful and triumphal and often within the same phrase. With a reliance more on eliciting an emotional response than showing off any production expertise, the album is typical of peak Deerhoof. Uncompromising, challenging and above all, a complete freaking delight.
From the first song, title track “Future Teenage Cave Artist”, the band invites the listener to hear what is happening between the lines, so to speak. The seams holding the production of the record are frayed and these frays are as equally part of the point as the songs themselves. Kicking off with a distressed guitar riff and the always inviting vocals of lead singer and bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, the listener is thrust right into the world the band has put together. There is a lot going here, not the least of which, the band’s immensely strong performing chops. Each member of Deerhoof is a virtuoso player and unlike most extremely confident musicians, they each don’t seem to have the time to show off but they play around the edges of where other players wouldn’t dare. Often stopping short, not letting a phrase play out but in a very intentional way. “Sympathy For Baby Boo” is their take on an almost classic rock song structure. The boogie-esque guitars just sit above drummer Greg Saunier’s off kilter, hop scotch-y beats until the whole proceeding explodes into an absolute rave of distorted bliss. “The Loved One” is a beautifully minimal affair punctuated by Matsuzaki’s gorgeous vocal harmonies. “O Saddle Ye Babes” sounds like it was recorded in a cave, with the reverb extending off the kick drum threatening to swallow everything whole. “New Orphan Asylum for Spirited Deerchildren” shows off the bands poppier side, something more akin to their 2008 release Offend Maggie, but with more emphasis on changing time signatures as much as they can within four minutes.
It’s a thrilling ride and by the time we get to album closer, Deerhoof’s take on Bach’s “I Call On Thee”, you should be pretty exhausted. There isn’t a contemporary band still performing that you can compare Deerhoof to. Throughout their wonderful career they have remained interesting AND exciting and the fact that they can still manage to bring as much to the table on their sixteenth album, then the future bodes well for Deerhoof to remain an absolute essential act to guide us through wherever our collective and unclear future is headed.
review by Adam Fink
Future Teenage Cave Artists by Deerhoof is available via Joyful Noise Recordings