Album Review: Deerhoof – Milk Man
Zach Rogers, Contributing Writer
April 22, 2012
Filed under Wright Life
After listening to the first 25 seconds of Milk Man, Deerhoof’s 2004 release, it sounds as if this is going to be their most commercial-oriented album yet. That is, until the rest of the band comes in to shatter that belief into tiny little pieces. In a sense though, it’s true. Never before has Deerhoof relied so heavily on melody and clarity in order to get their ideas across. It allows for a more solid and complete record, and Milk Man is probably one of the group’s most accessible albums they’ve ever recorded.
At the time, there was a lot of change going on within the band. For one, they had just released Apple O’ with new guitarist Chris Cohen, expanding Deerhoof into a foursome. With another guitarist in the mix, the band was able to do a lot more with their sound, and Milk Man sees them utilizing this force to maximum potential. Another important step came when all four members decided to quit their jobs and make Deerhoof a full-time priority. It was time for them to start thinking big, and with two well-received albums already under their belt, Milk Man was the start of the band becoming a full-fledged life-force.
So does it make sense to go directly for more concise song structures this time around? In my mind, yes, and it’s actually done quite well. The wild nature of the band is still there, it’s just not as big or explosive as it was in the past. The first song, title track “Milk Man”, makes clear that the band is still able to tear down walls and knock over buildings, but you can also see where they actually put some thought into the song. Instead of brief “ideas” that would only last for about 90 seconds before, Milk Man is made up of standard 3-4 minute songs, proving that Deerhoof was ready to try new ways of approaching music.
For instance, “Desaparecere” sounds like a Radiohead b-side, possibly from either Kid A or Amnesiac. It certainly isn’t the first song that finds Deerhoof experimenting with electronics, and as always it gives off a whole new vibe, almost like a completely different band. The song works well though in the grand scheme of things; instead of steering the album off track, it shows just how far Deerhoofcan stretch their musical boundaries, which at this point seems rather endless.
“Rainbow Silhouette of the Milky Rain” brings the band right back into the comfort zone fans are familiar with, and the instrumental track shows just how musically in sync each member of the band is with one another. Songs like “C” and “Song of Sorn” display singer Satomi Matsuzaki’s ability to use her own voice as another instrument, adding more layers to the band’s dynamic. But where’s all that pop and melody I was talking about earlier? Well, the song “Milking” has plenty of both. Its song structure is so basic and simple that it almost feels odd to hear it coming from a Deerhoof record. Without a doubt, it’s their most down-to-earth song, but it’s also the one where they sound the most tied down to form.
Being “tied down” is still the debate that rages on with this album today. At the time, there were disputes over whether this was Deerhoof’s most restrained record. This may be the case, but it wasn’t as if the band had totally abandoned their old sporadic sound. The chaotic drumming and frenzied guitar work is still there, it’s just hidden underneath melody and harmony. Where on previous albums their songs sounded like near-accidents, here they seem like well-thought out and focused plans of attack. Don’t get me wrong, accidents are great, but a little bit of planning can certainly go a long way.