Friend Opportunity

Tomlab Tom090
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Later on, in the sparkly white jumpsuit days, Elvis would reach a peak moment when the music moved him so deeply, lifted him to such lofty heights, transported him so far from daily cares, that there was only one thing to do: the Inverted Claw. Man, when music makes you do that, it's a truly awesome feeling. And the Inverted Claw is what Deerhoof is all about.

Just when you think you're too jaded to swoon over anything, or clasp your hands to your chest and just smile and say "Yes!" out loud when it gets to your favorite part of a song, well, throw on Friend Opportunity and give it a few spins so it sinks in. Songs like the "The Perfect Me" have three or four sections of heart-stopping epiphanies of the sublime; "Matchbook Seeks Maniac" pulls a "99 Luftballoons" breakdown move in the middle, rocks a Brahms interval in the pop-narcotic chorus, and the Beach Boys and the Who are all over the mix. It is one of the most glorious things I've ever heard.

On previous albums, one of Deerhoof's main weapons was negative space of the band members were like painters who'd leave bare patches of canvas to highlight their strokes; now they're more inclined to fill in each square inch, inviting us to revel in every brilliant corner. "The Perfect Me," "Believe E.S.P." and "Choco Fight" are vastly more groove-oriented -- and yeah, sexy -- than anything they've ever done, but it's integrated into something inexpressibly beautiful, juxtapositions that honest to goodness make you reconsider what is possible in music. "Believe E.S.P." opens with Deerhoof's take on get-down funky slinkopation but the next passage sounds like something out of Palestrina, and so many of these songs are like a scenic drive that
flows seamlessly from one astonishing vista to the next, from wide, shimmering deserts to foggy canyons to staggering, snow-peaked mountaintops.

Deerhoof is not one of those quotational, ironic, postmodern bands that pervaded indie rock for so long. Maybe that's because they're so clearly in love with the power of music, and are such incredible musicians and composers. Yeah, I said "composers" there's a symphonic conception at work here, entire worlds within chords, genius hooks that may or may not swing by again, a programmatic, narrative flow that takes us from one place and drops us off in another, like an exhilarating abduction. As Mike Watt once said of his band the Minutemen, Deerhoof doesn't write songs, they write rivers.

Their music has an ineffable logic, as if they dream this stuff and somehow remember what they dreamt and forge it into music before it evaporates from their minds. They're a rock band doing the work of an orchestra, compelling reveries alternating with powerful rushes of sinuous melody, lyrical power-plays and overwhelming joy; when Satomi sings, it's a pure, child-like voice wandering in an enchanted Miyazaki forest.

Where on earth does this stuff come from? Their antenna are up, they're receiving frequencies from all over and integrating them into something totally, thrillingly sui generis. But here's one important source: For at least 20 years, hip-hop has made the most outlandish, experimental music the pop world has ever seen. Why can't rock music do the same thing, in its own way? So while Friend Opportunity does tangentially cite hip-hop (and various eras of rock at its most adventurous), it mostly just applies the same mindset what if we just let our imaginations run free?

The band hit one of the crossroads it's periodically encountered in its 13-year existence when guitarist Chris Cohen, who'd been on board for four years, left the band in May of 2006 to concentrate on his band the Curtains; the new Deerhoof mutated. Satomi sings more sweetly, John takes a giant leap to the fore, and now there are those man-machine beatbox rhythms, with Greg outpacing the technology like a John Henry with two wooden dowels in his hands instead of a sledgehammer. But just as importantly, you can hear how Deerhoof took a little something from each of the bands they'd toured with Radiohead, the Roots, and Wilco although they don't sound like any of those bands. It's more like some strange new mountain of music that came from several tectonic plates of colliding conceptions, a stunning upheaval that scrapes the skies and etches mind-boggling mandalas into the clear blue.

Friend Opportunity is a feat of reinvention that could only come from artists willing to rethink everything. Even though Deerhoof has been around a long time, they're still restless, still hungry for the rush of the new. Not coincidentally, and fortunately for Deerhoof, they've attracted a burgeoning following who absolutely love to be challenged from album to album, from song to song, from moment to moment. Friend Opportunity will not disappoint them. Or anyone else.

Michael Azerrad

Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity

The Perfect Me Deerhoof 2' 41''
Plus 81 Deerhoof 3' 04''
Believe E.s.p Deerhoof 3' 07''
The Galaxist Deerhoof 2' 41''
Choco Fight Deerhoof 3' 01''
Whither The Invisible Birds Deerhoof 2' 11''
Cast Off Crown Deerhoof 2' 47''
Kidz Are So Small Deerhoof 1' 00''
Matchbox Seeks Maniac Deerhoof 3' 23''
Look Away Deerhoof 11' 46''

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