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Deerhoof - Apple O'

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Artist: Deerhoof

Album: Apple O'

Label: 5 Rue Christine

Review date: Apr. 17, 2003

The Apple of Our Eyes


Inside all beauty there resides a certain madness. San Franciscoís Deerhoof have spent their career toying with this contradiction, experimenting with elements of creation and destruction to form a truly unpredictable and wondrous whole. Part wide-eyed childishness and part blistering, prog-infused rock, the groupís sound is an exercise in extremes. Yet, far from just swinging from one end of the spectrum to the next, the groupís true talent comes in their almost alchemic ability to meld these disparate ideas into a fascinating and oddly accessible batch of material.

Apple Oí, the bandís fifth album, is deliciously perfect art-rock. While packed with spastic rants and shards of twisted guitar, the album also showcases the bandís inescapable melodicism. Bassist/lead vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki churns out line after line of sugary pop while Greg Saunier provides a rattling backbeat and twin guitarists Chris Cohen and John Dieterich rifle forth curling, rapid-fire riffs. More immediately accessible than past Deerhoof releases, the album maintains its experimental edge while branching out into newly polished pop territory.

Clocking in at just over half an hour, Apple Oí is a quick ride. Fortunately, it offers frighteningly few weak moments. From the first squeal of feedback to the final pull of Matsuzakiís voice, the disc is thoroughly engaging. Songs twist and turn, revolving through key changes and instrumental interludes, yet never do the songs lose their electric immediacy. Part of this is due to the fact that the majority of the cuts clock in around the two minute mark, yet Deerhoof packs enough of a sonic punch that even their 90 second tunes feel like entire exhibitions of aural art.

With a lurching lick and a flurry of notes "Dummy Discards A Heart" kick-starts the disc. Snapping drum kicks, Matsuzakiís chirping vocals and a "ba-ba-ba" chorus carry the song forward with a staggering, dancey punch. Washes of distortion, horns, call and response guitars and keyboard bleeps transform "Sealed With A Kiss" into a psychedelic, disjointed dance cut.

"Flower" swerves through a dizzying progression of perfect pop tidbits in just over a minute and a half. The instrumental "My Diamond Star Car," on the other hand, is a blitzkrieg blast of notes not far removed from the technical madness of Japanese noise-prog heroes Ruins. Swinging back in the other direction, the disc finishes with the soft acoustic sing-along of "Blue Cash."

Lyrically, Matsuzaki demonstrates both a talent for tender poetics and offbeat oddities. "Sealed With A Kiss" progresses from the political couplet "stop the man at the top/ stop the flag at the top" to the nonsensical call "stop the drop of the mop." "Apple Bomb" contains four stanzas of ruminations on loneliness, and sees Matsuzaki changing the "ba-ba-baís" of the opener to the far darker refrain "bomb bomb bomb." Yet, four songs later, we get a track whose entire lyrics consist of "China Panda/ Bamboo Panda/ I like Panda/ Bye bye Panda/ Panda Road." What emerges in listening to the lyrics of Apple Oí is that, as is true with the band itself, the charm in Matsuzakiís writing comes from this disparate combination of the profound, the artistic and the downright silly.

Odd enough for elitists to dig and catchy enough to lodge itself in the head of even the most casual listeners, Apple Oí promises to entrance anyone with an open ear and a half hour to spare. Deerhoof have created far and away the yearís most refreshingly individual and downright charming record. True, mad beauty indeed.

By Ethan Covey

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