February 22, 2007

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Deerhoof, Friend Opportunity
Kill Rock Stars, 2007

Deerhoof singer/guitarist Satomi Matsuzaki offers a strange if somewhat philosophical proposal on the song “Kidz are so Small,” from the indie/no wave band’s latest effort, Friend Opportunity. “If I were man, and you a dog/I’d throw a stick for you,” she speak- sings in her childish, high-pitched voice. She then inverts the scenario: “If I were dog, and you a man/I’d throw a fit for you.” Suffice to say, these are some of Matsuzaki’s more straight-forward lyrics on the record.

After years of bludgeoning listeners with abstract, high-decibel art-punk, San Francisco’s Deerhoof began inching toward a more accessible sound on 2005’s The Runner’s Four. Friend Opportunity proves more song-oriented and hook-driven, yet without sacrificing Deerhoof’s experimental edge.

Case in point, “+81” features horns and drummer Greg Saunier’s lock-step martial drumming; “Cast Off Crown” begins with guitarist John Dieterich’s blazing riffs, only to morph into an ambient, Radiohead-esque jam and “Matchbook Seeks Maniac” is a straight-up pop gem that crescendos with Matsuzaki’s cheesy yet heartfelt chorus, “I would sell my soul to the devil/If I could be on top of the world.” Throughout it all Deerhoof’s ADD-inspired dynamic shifts keep things fresh and exciting. As a recent New York Times review of a live Deerhoof show put it, “Don’t like a Deerhoof riff? Just wait a few seconds.”

The band shows signs of its former no-wave self on closing track “Look Away,” a 12-minute noise jam that meanders along with no direction and seems strangely out of place on the album. Then again, non-sequiturs seem to be what Deerhoof does best. As Matsuzaki implores early on, “Meet the perfect me.” Indeed, Friend Opportunity might just be the closest to perfection Deerhoof has ever gotten. A Adam Marletta