It’s good to see a band like Deerhoof getting a decent amount of press these days: the somewhat-surreptitiously released Mountain Moves did indeed garner a post on Pitchfork, and Genius already has “Slow Motion Detonation” lyrics uploaded, albeit this being one of their pages which doesn’t feature full instrumentation accrediting. Yeah, and I have no idea why they feature singer “Juana Molina” on track one, “an Argentine singer, songwriter and actress, based in Buenos Aires” . The whole thing seems pretty touch-and-go, at this point.
There have been times when I’ve named Deerhoof as the American Radiohead, the only other worthy candidate probably being Grizzly Bear. In order to be the American Radiohead, in other words, you can’t really just be droll and humorous — sometimes you have to get up and show your teeth, a little bit. Here even on Mountain Moves, then, and encompassing much of the reason why this project works fairly well, Greg Saunier’s drums rain over the proceedings a monsoon of popping torque, firmly grounding this work in the founding canon of edgy, intimidating indie-rock. Right up from Milk Man’s “Desaparacere,” the most Radiohead-approximating track probably ever created in the States, I knew this band was capable of initiating sea changes in how we listen to and think of music: but today they just sound tired, psychotic, full of cognitive dissonance, bitter that everybody hears their music for free, petulant before the stupidity of indie-haters and Donald Trump-voters… you know, the way any coherently thinking person would be, in their shoes.
Even the first track alone, “Slow Motion Detonation,” is so full of identity crisis that it reminds me of like someone who can’t decide to be a hipster or not, and wears horn rimmed glasses with yoga pants, or maybe horn rimmed glasses and tie-dye. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter. Suffice it to say that the band’s disdain for their audience is apparent in the juvenile, repetitive vocals of Satomi Matsuzaki, the immediate, finesse-lacking way this song (and so this album) starts, and the half-hearted foray into Chicago math rock. Nothing is full developed here. It’s as if they’re saying, yeah, you free-loader, come to our show and maybe we’ll play some actual SONGS.
But the lyrics to close out the track do strike a chord: “A future you could have saved”, and similarly, “Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You” robustly exude at very least confidence in their own poetic skills. It’s the type of thing you wouldn’t even attempt if you hadn’t undergone just a mind-blowing amount of anger and cultural compunction the vise of your own cognitive purity, over the years. Deerhoof know they can’t save rock and roll: they can’t even reinvent it. Mountain Moves plays as sort of the band just practicing aerobic calisthenics by playing their instruments, somewhat like a compulsion albeit a fairly enjoyable compulsion for the fact that… he**, they ARE the American Radiohead.
One thing I do notice as a career progression, anyway (and isn’t it funny how refreshing stylistic wrinkles are usually accompanied by the vocalist actually sounding inspired) is a vague baby-step into surf-rock: the benign, liquefied guitar sound closing out “Slow Motion Detonation,” the string bends and laid-back swagger of “Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You.” Everything is very postmodern these days, people meaning something other than they say, people expressing daunting and apocalyptic truths as if they’re harmless and playful — so with this essentially maudlin verbal framing, we get the cavalier demeanor which is then full of irony. Is it GOOD? He**, I dunno.