Understanding Deerhoof is a lot easier after the lobotomy.

Deer Hunter 

Understanding Deerhoof is a lot easier after the lobotomy.

I don't quite get Deerhoof.

But that's OK. I don't think I'm supposed to.

I'm not even sure Deerhoof's members get Deerhoof. But that's OK. I don't think they're supposed to, either.

Call them strange. Call them weird. Call them bugfuck insane. It doesn't matter. Music is a universal normal pill. And a musician who is crazier than a shithouse rat is merely brilliant by another name. True artists don't have to make sense. In fact, it's better if they don't. It adds to the mystique.

Deerhoof doesn't really make any sense. But I doubt the band's members lose much sleep over the fact. Instead, the San Francisco quartet calmly lures listeners with an unconsciously upbeat clusterfuck of sound. Playful melodies dodge and weave between the lilting cadence of singer Satomi Matsuzaki's vocals as they skip dreamily past roaring guitars, thumping drums, skittering beeps and wavering keyboards that come and go in a ballet of cheerful cacophony.

But attempting to decode the music will result only in an incredibly serene mental breakdown. Just relax. Being musicians gives them license to drivel. A Wonka golden ticket to the factory where artists turn gibberish into genius by setting straitjacket ramblings to music before sitting back and smirking as the rest of us frantically paw at each word, each stanza, each melody, trying to unlock the intricacies of life.

That's the prerogative of musicians considered to be ahead of their time. They can pour ketchup on their chests, smear feces in their hair and cluck like demented roosters while strumming banjos, and people call them eccentric. They can goose-step around a stage in a French-maid outfit screeching, "Bowler hat monkey soufflé! Bowler hat monkey soufflé!" while shaking maracas, and people call them experimental.

They can release an album called Milk Man and include on it a 4-minute song called "C" with lyrics that consist of six words -- Who/On the water wander far --repeated over and over, and people will call them Deerhoof.

The Cliffs Notes version of the band's biography goes like this: Formed in 1994 by drummer Greg Saunier and guitarist Rob Fisk as a mostly improv group, the band signs to Kill Rock Stars in 1995. Deerhoof's debut, The Man, The King, The Girl, is released in 1997. The band plays musical chairs with its lineup as albums come and go. The current roster of Saunier, Matsuzaki, John Dieterich and Chris Cohen releases Apple O' to universal acclaim in 2003. The band cements its status as a quirky fave on the touring indie circuit. Deerhoof releases Milk Man in March 2004. Curiously, it's the band's most accessible album.

As long as you don't think too hard about it. In fact, I highly recommend a lobotomy. Because as soon as you stop trying to figure out what the hell is going on with "Dog on the Sidewalk," the sooner you can enjoy the raining beeps and squiggles without fretting over The Message. It doesn't even matter that the song's lyrics, in their entirety, are Dog on the sidewalk/I saw/Wan wan kun ga poko poko pon pon.

Naturally. What else would they be?

Trying to extract the method behind the madness just takes all the fun out of hanging out with crazy people. Because, dude, let me tell you, it doesn't get any easier than this. Milk Man is pretty Wonder Bread compared with some of the abstract spazz-outs of Deerfhoof albums past.

Besides, Milk Man isn't nearly as laborious a listen as most of the dreck floating in the prog-rock cosmos. In fact, it's light. It's fun. It's what a particularly talented band of third-graders off their Ritalin might create if they had the inclination. Music for an amiable psychotic break that's over in less than 30 minutes.

Just let yourself go. Don't worry about song titles like "Rainbow Silhouette of the Milky Rain" or lyrics like I sleep in angel's feather's heaven bed/Don't say good night/Far Away/Nervous face/I hiss at the milk man's king.

It's not nearly as cryptic as it seems. Anybody can write song lyrics. Let me show you. I'll take a quick survey of the articles on my desk and let stream-of-consciousness take care of the rest:

Loretta spackled the key ring in electric Frankenstein pajamas/Making bread from scratch/Bread from scratch/Bread from the swing line/Scratch the itch/Ready, Betty, the roller skates in the delirium aquarium/Ooooh, ooooh, ohhhhhhhhh.

See, it's not that hard.

And don't let the Milk Man cover art disturb you, either. It depicts the "Milk Man" himself, standing nude with a ghoulish smile on his face. His scalp is impaled with a strawberry, one banana has pierced an armpit and another is stabbed into his hip. Blood -- or maybe it's Smucker's -- trickles from the wounds. But once you understand that Milk Man and his torments are taken from Pac-Man, you will be at ease. You can even talk to Milk Man and use the album's lyrics as his responses:

So, Milk Man. You seem to have been bludgeoned with several pieces of fruit. Yet, you seem oddly peaceful. Why?

Milk Man sleeps on the roof in the noon/Banana stabbed to the arms/Weird man/Ooh la la.

I see. How does the creative process work with you and Deerhoof?

Milk Man sneaks in the house under moon/Miracle words come to a mouth/You may hear "Peek a Boo."

Uh-huh. Now tell me about yourself. What was life like when you were just a Milk Boy?

Milk Man smiles to you "Hi" in a nude/"This banana stuck in my arms, oh my love!"/Stabbed to the arms/Ooh la la, yellow one.

Fantastic. Well, thanks for your time, Milk Man.


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