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Drowned in Sound: Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity

Drowned in Sound
Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity
by Kodi McKinney, DJ at U92

There's really too much indie music out there that deserves a lack of exposure. Since Nirvana's success brought the underground into the sunlight, lackluster indie artists have ridden the coattails of more revolutionary contemporaries into respectability. For every Modest Mouse or the Shins, there are ten bands that no one should ever be subjected to. Deerhoof's new album, Friend Opportunity, is thankfully more in line with those few truly good bands even while caught in the trappings of those who failed.
Experimental rock can take encouraging shapes, but the vocals often suffer. That could sum up Deerhoof in a sentence, as singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki is rarely off-key but still terribly annoying. Her timbre is painfully childlike, similar to a grown woman playing the part of a little girl. The lyrics sometimes back it up, as with the bizarre "choo choo beep beep" chorus of the rocking "+81." But on the whole, Deerhoof have one great flaw keeping them from greater success, and Matsukazi is it. By the painfully cute "Choco Fight," she has overstayed her welcome in your eardrums, and the rest of the band's oft-random placement of electronic noise starts to feel contrived rather than purposeful.
Deerhoof have acquired a reputation for creative melodies within the indie community, but the ones they come up with here are rather hit-or-miss. When Deerhoof do connect on songs like "The Galaxist," they take listeners to other dimensions. When they totally botch the tune as they do every few tracks, however, all faith in their abilities is lost. A prime example is following the amazing "Cast Off Crown" with the useless "Kidz Are So Small" (sic), a song apparently written for the sole purpose of reminding everyone how precious Matsuzaki sounds. Tellingly enough, "Cast Off Crown" stands out partly because drummer Greg Saunier sings it instead.
The adorable "Hi, we're just a few kids with a song" approach can work, but Deerhoof are trying to be cute and edgy simultaneously. It's an awkward marriage that gets closest to divorce on the closer "Look Away," which features Matsuzaki babbling over distinctly menacing cacophony. Any song approaching 12 minutes in length needs a clear sense of direction. Deerhoof don't seem to understand this, as a sensible resolution from clashing melodies to sparse chords is followed (and ruined) by several minutes of guitarist John Dietrich's aimless fiddling. No moment is more emblematic of everything wrong with Deerhoof than this one.
Despite the flaws, the end result is a provocative mess. Friend Opportunity has no filler and a few truly great songs; however, not everything memorable here is good. The same can be said about the band members, who are all doing distinctive things that occasionally become obnoxious. Most of all, Matsuzaki's voice really hurts this album. Should Deerhoof and Matsuzaki ever part ways and ease up on the cuteness, this band will go places. Consider this recording a document of potential.

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