Tag Archives: Deerhoof

Got the spirit, but lose the feeling.

Falling behind here, but between the shoddy service of Time Warner Cable (NAMED AND SHAMED) and a cycle of daily recreation spiralling quickly into Dali-esque ridiculousness, I can’t really help that.

This gig, though, is the first one I’ve been to at the Williamsburg Waterfront. The Waterfront gigs seem to be Important to the People of Williamsburg in some discernable but slightly nebulous way. I gather that they were under threat from something, possibly the recession, but that they were saved. More on that later.

The line-up is amazing. Deerhoof & Xiu Xiu combined, performing Unknown Pleasures in its entirety. Why? I don’t know why. But wait, the last support was also called Why? You might know and love Why? already, but if you don’t, maybe reading me yammer incorrigibly about their live shows and their album will help. Also on the bill were Pictureplane and Fang Island.

I showed up early enough to catch the start of the show, but Pictureplane were horrifyingly bad the last time I saw them, so I got a slice of pizza and watched some of the World Cup final, which was on that day. I got into one of my favourite types of conversation with the other pizza eaters – the kind where Americans don’t know what they’re talking about regarding football and I friendlily inform them of the actual state of affairs. Examples of some claims: “that was definitely offsides” accompanied by an attempt to explain the offside rule incorrectly, when what had actually happened was a foul, and the pizza man claiming that Brazil were playing when, in fact, they were not playing.

I got to the place and sat around for a bit while Fang Island emo’d out on stage. Guess what you can’t buy at Williamsburg Waterfront? Coke. As in Coca Cola. Can’t be had. Your choices are Brooklyn Lager, water or Vitamin Water. Which is ridiculous. I got a crab juice.

Here’s where it starts getting good though.

Organ fades up with Yoni still not on the stage. He strolls out in a retro shirt and a pair of Kappa shorts with hair so short at the sides it’s essentially a mohawk, and does the Fall of Mr. Fifths, potentially my favourite ever Why? song. It’s a good start.

The rest of the set flies by. He does some Eskimo Snow stuff, and the crowd reaction is noticeably more muted, but for the most part he sticks to the Alopecia hits – no Crushed Bones or Rubber Traits, but plenty of other great songs and of course the opportunity to actually look at a man while he tells you about getting stuck into his therapist or failing to mate or taking loads of cocaine or having syphilis or weaving anger into a gadzai to bring to an alma mater’s holiday fundraiser boutique thing.

He also did the Do The Right Thing dance. Which was a highlight.

There are more highlights. The organiser/outdoor MC/shouter of the word Brooklyn emerges after Why? and thanks the corporate sponsors or whoever else needs to be thanked. Then he says this:

“People always ask me why the Senior State Senator of New York State cares so much about keeping these events at the Waterfront. You know what I tell them? It’s because the Senior State Senator of New York State is FUCKING AWESOME!”

Uh oh… they’re not going to…

And there he is, the Senior State Senator of New York State, a cleanly, white-haired Jewish-looking man in his 70s, standing on the stage about to give a speech. Bad taste in the mouth already. But wait, a challenger appears. A long-haired guy of about 25, two rows from the front:


The Senator tries to speak.

Senator’s confused. But he’s a Senator, and the two ways to become an elected representative are being smart and knowing how to manipulate large amounts of people. So he pulls it back.


Crowd cheers. Guess what he shouts next. Guess.


Yeah, he shouted Brooklyn. It always works.


It is pretty good actually. Free gig, great bands, Waterfront.


Um… if you insist, elected political representative who is clearly on the stage to remind people that he is their buddy and they should vote for him…


He exits. Bizarre, bizarre stuff. Point 1: get off the stage, state senator. This is a rock show. It doesn’t even fit. Point 2: even if you want Palestine freed, maybe shout it twice or hold up a flag and refuse to cheer even when the senator shouts the word Brooklyn, but it gets a little awkward if you’re shouting over him. Luckily, Greg Saunier shows up and starts setting up his drums.

So, Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu combining their significant forces to cover Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division. We know they’re friends. Greg Saunier, Deerhoof’s drummer and primary compositional genius, produced The Air Force by Xiu Xiu, and they’re both based in San Francisco. But putting them together was the best drunken idea anyone ever had. Line-up as follows:

Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) – drums
Satomi Matsuzaki (Deerhoof) – noise guitar (normally bassist/vocalist)
Ed Rodriguez (Deerhoof) – bass (normally guitarist)
John Dieterich (Deerhoof) – lead guitar
Angela Seo (Xiu Xiu) – synth, breaking glass (seriously)
Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) – vocals

I’m sure it’s consensus knowledge that Greg Saunier is one of the best drummers around, and John Dieterich is one of the best guitarists around. And Jamie Stewart, even if camp whispering is not your bag for some reason (it should be), is a huge personality. So hopes were high.

They play the album straight through and don’t address the crowd. It’s meaty as fuck, heavier than Joy Division probably ever played it and as dark as they did too. Mosh pits form at various points, with the biggest one happening, predictably, during She’s Lost Control. Shadowplay is a facemelter. While the tempo keeps up, the crowd stay with it, and though attentions wander a little when the closer starts its dirge-like trudge, the sight of Angela Seo throwing three wine glasses at a time into a barrel and then crushing them with a large metal stick keeps me from being distracted at any rate.

It ends and I leave to try make the Roots and Talib Kweli at Prospect Park for some real Brooklyn-shouting, safe in the knowledge that I’ve seen something I would never see if I’d stayed home to work in the bookshop.



TDOM Day 15: A Song That Describes You

Deerhoof – Spirit Ditties Of No Tone

Bless spirit ditties of no tone.
Modulate more silence.

You and I may foresee.
We can be history,
Painted on wall that’s near
Ought to.
Montage fragments.
Ditties of no tone.
Montage fragments.
Ditties of no tone.

Montage fragments: Deerhoof in Galway


We were somewhere around Maynooth on the edge of the midlands when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive. . . .” And suddenly there was a terrible roar and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Galway. “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”

Then it was quiet again.

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Photo by Loreana Rushe myleftventricle.wordpress.com

Photo by Loreana Rushe myleftventricle.wordpress.com

Went to see Deerhoof in Whelans on Friday. Deerhoof are very good. So I went to see them again on Saturday in Galway. Review forthcoming.

The Year. 6. Do re mi fa so’s star will scream.

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–> <!–[if gte mso 10]> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>6. Deerhoof – Offend Maggie

Kill Rock Stars

It’s hard to say anything about Deerhoof that hasn’t been said before. These guys are hardened vets of the highest rank. Satomi Matsuzaki and Greg Saunier plus others have been making genuinely fantastic albums with a barely plausible regularity, given their complexity, for a decade and change. Their music is a dichotomy. It’s pop in its purest, most child-like sense, the sort of thing you could put on at 10 o’clock in the morning over Play-Do figures dancing in a meadow and have some sort of success with those aged 2-5. But it’s also experimental, almost avant garde. And these two senses don’t trade places. They exist simultaneously, in a captivating sort of musical messianic duality.

To be honest, I’m not really qualified to talk about Deerhoof on their own terms. Most people aren’t, I would think. To talk about Offend Maggie in purely indie rock terms is probably as off-base as that Beatles review where he talks about their augmented shifts. But I don’t know anything about Ornette Coleman. So I have to say that, when you jam an absolutely manic musical genius drummer/songwriter into a band with a Japanese woman who was essentially hired because she was quiet but who turned out pretty well, you get weird things. Like the Large Hadron Collider. And about as inexplicable to the man on the street.

So, some specifics about Offend Maggie then. It’s probably the most focused album they’ve ever made. The guitars sound more in charge than ever, and the rhythm makes a serious point of upsetting that authority. Many of the songs are perfect. Offend Maggie the song is fussy but articulated, folky but assured. Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back is the best knowingly insane song Deerhoof have ever knowingly included. Snoopy Waves skips around with some fantastic riffs that I can only describe as groovy. On This Is God Speaking, God has nothing interesting to say, or if he does, it pales in comparison to the instrumental genius on every song surrounding it. Man has come too far.

The Year. 5. If I were man, and you a dog.

5. Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
Kill Rock Stars

The closer to the end of this list I get, the harder I find it to find good adjectives to use, and also to express how fucking excellent the music in question is. Coincidentally, the closer to the end of this list I get, the more I also regret writing giant tracts about twenty-five albums instead of studying or writing music or something more productive. But that’s not Deerhoof’s fault. Friend Opportunity came out at the start of the year, so, in the worst crime against art since Elgin prised the friezes off the Parthenon, nobody put it on their lists. These lists are of course about two months old by now. But fuck it.

There are two sides to this album. On the one hand is the usual Deerhoof. Riffs that sound like those pictures where flights of stairs run into each other and defy perspective. Incredible infectiousness. Quirky, perceptive and confusing lyrics that sound like either a child or a woman with less English than Satomi Matsuzaki (or Greg Saunier) wrote them. Everything you loved about The Runners Four, Apple O’ or Milk Man is distilled here, perfected. The Perfect Me and +81 are two songs that I would have in an all-time indie pop single compilation, and the spiritual successor of Dog On The Sidewalk, Kidz Are So Small makes little or no sense, in the best way possible.

But then there’s also some sort of nameless melancholy that creeps in. Maybe it’s Greg’s voice. Maybe it’s the gaps between wall-shaking riffage. I don’t know what it is, but it’s there on Cast Off Crown, and even, despite the apparent nominal evidence to the contrary, on Choco Fight. Ignorance of Friend Opportunity should be punishable by death. A venerable band to be cherished and held aloft, with psycho-sugar meat-riff cutesie songs. Testing the boundaries of fun for the good of all mankind.
Their KRS page has a very good Things section with interviews and videos, and Bren has Greg in the first issue of Analogue, which pretty much inspired me to try to get involved in the first place.