Hello there – long time no see. It is I, Dan Fiorio, sometime contributor and the creator of the “Give It A Spin” column. Speaking of columns, this review is the kick-off to the newest feature on Midwest Action: Basement Dwelling.
What is Basement Dwelling? Well, the literal definition of someone who would be deemed a “basement dweller” is the type of person who spends a great deal of their lives indoors, dedicating their time to their favorite hobby: listening to records. That’s what this column is all about. I buy records, I listen to records, and then we talk about ’em. Don’t think of me as a critic shoving his opinions down your throat, but more as your friend, turning you on to some new music.
So, if you will, sit back and grab a good pair of headphones. Let’s listen to some good tunes.
Deerhoof have been on a creative roll for the last eight years, an impressive feat for a band that just celebrated 20 years together and who now have 12 studio records under their belt. Since their 2007 release, Friend Opportunity, we’ve seen Deerhoof veer off into some new creative directions from the spastic avant-garde noise rock that they’re known for.
From the lush art rock sounds of the aforementioned Friend Opportunity and 2011’s highly underappreciated Deerhoof v.s. Evil, to 2012’s pop music on crack Breakup Songs, Deerhoof has sounded more revitalized creatively than ever. Their latest record, La Isla Bonita, is no exception to this trend, except instead of aiming for a new trajectory the band is staying on the straight and narrow this time around, sticking to what makes this band an important fixture in indie rock.
Sonically, this record features all of Deerhoof’s best attributes on full blast. Their sonic palette of jagged rhythms and blaring guitar work from their old days are ever present on La Isla Bonita. Rhythm section and band leaders, Greg Saunier and Satomi Matsuzaki, sound perfectly tight and as sporadic as ever on this record. This quality is apparent from the very beginning of this record with “Paradise Girls”, a song dedicated to smart girls in bands who play the bass guitar. If you’re a girl who fits this mold, this song is for you; if you’re someone who enjoys having a good time, you should enjoy this track as well. Halfway through the album, we hear Deerhoof at their most bombastic with the track “Exit Only”, a song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on their earlier records on the Kill Rock Stars label. “Exit Only” features some of the most straight-forward playing this band has put on record in a while, and it’s a nice change of pace hearing them get back to their roots.
La Isla Bonita isn’t all just art funk and noisy guitars. Deerhoof’s art rock side comes out in the stoned waltz of the album’s second track “Mirror Monster” and the prep rally chats of “Big House Waltz”, making for a very big sounding record. You wouldn’t believe was recorded in a week in the garage of Deerhoof guitarist Ed Rodriguez. For all of the record’s highs, the only thing stopping me from putting this above their other releases is that the songs are just not as memorable. But if this is Deerhoof playing it safe, they’ve managed to make playing it safe sound better than most bands taking a risk – just what I’d expect from the hardest working band in indie rock.
Favorite Tracks: Paradise Girls, Mirror Monster, Exit Only, Big House Waltz
Least Favorite Track: God 2
78\100 (Recommended Listening, but if you’re looking to get into Deerhoof start with some of their earlier records)