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CD Review: Deerhoof – The Runners Four

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I had to give this album quite a few playbacks just to see if my gut reaction wasn’t simply over the top. Quite simply, this is a brilliant, dynamic, and insane listen. Now, one could argue about what band came first and who influenced who ’til the cows come home, but it would be far more satisfying to try and determine just what the hell this is.

Like a crazed, lollypop-twirling devil with eyes like solar eclipses and arms like slot machine handles, The Runners Four has what it takes to be the 21st century equivalent to “Safe as Milk,” given half the chance. In terms of composition alone, Deerhoof’s tenth album (which is twice as long as any of their previous efforts) has to be admired as a work of invigorating vibrancy. Giving you the sense that these tracks could work extraordinarily well even as instrumentals, Chris Cohen and John Dieterich’s guitars hop scotch together to take you somewhere utterly fantastic.

But what is that voice? A daydreaming Asian teenage girl plucked at random and placed in front of an explosive rock band? Or an overweight madman with a falsetto that’s gone past the point of no return? The real answer is bassist Satomi Matsuzaki and her twisted English, daintily delivering themes of espionage and magic in what reads like Beat poetry:

Revive your fire. Now, now, now.
We have wolf minds.
Knock your door of the minds hard to wake them up.

Bark to the moon loud. Shout, shout, shout.
Make a wish come true.
Glare eternity.

Forming a seemingly telepathic interplay with each other, the end product makes for a dazzling combination that is strangely (and perhaps inexplicably) compelling; few releases this year have excited me in the way The Runners Four does. Not only will it be guaranteed to bring me back for repeated visits, but I look forward to the process of growing into it. To know that it was recorded live only helps to astound me further.

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  • Bryan McKay

    An amazing record from an amazing band. Possibly their finest work to date, in my opinion.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Yeah, this really amazing, cool stuff. I have little to add except that Deerhoof really deserves a wider audience. On their next tour, they’ll be performing with an arts collective called the Starter Set, who are musicians, dancers and video artists. If you know anything about the Hoof, you’ll know they don’t do things, um, normally in their live act, and this sounds intriguingly weird. Count me in.