Monday, April 03, 2006

Deerhoof - London Scala, 27th March

The cover of Deerhoof's latest album "Milk Man" (left) shows a figure being injured by pieces of fruit. This image is not that disturbing in itself, it's plainly ridiculous because we know fruit is good for you. But the image did take on a new sinister edge when at the end of their recent London show they started throwing bananas into the crowd!

That's one example of the fairly high levels of interactivity that were evident. People at the front of the crowd got to play some cowbells, and right at the end there was a full-on democratic process to figure out whether t-shirts would be sold from the stage, or in the bar.

So what about the music? Well I've put off talking about that because it's difficult to explain. By turns they reminded me a bit of The Fall, Cardiacs and Trans Am. That covers the experimental, multi-tempo, art/punk side of the sound which is undeniable. But quivering next to that is a delicacy of touch that really confuses things. Their tiny Japanese vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki makes effortless leaps between sounding innocent and childlike to wailing banshee without warning. The overall effect is disorienting but not unpleasantly.

The San Francisco band seem to revel in juxtaposition and throwing diverse ideas together to see what survives the impact. They have a wilfully obscure and confusing website. Animals seem to feature heavily in the titles, suggesting a cartoon-ish, fairy story element (Rabbit Dog, Trickybird, The Pickup Bird, Holdy Paws). But then so does the vaguely horrific and nightmarish (Gore In Rut, Dead Beast Queen, Heart Failure). Dadaism does come to mind, especially as they make no attempt to explain themselves.

It was a very enjoyable night, and I always like the Scala for an intimate venue. I can't give a setlist because I don't know their stuff well enough. They have a bunch of MP3s freely downloadable, take a listen and see what you think. But watch out for the killer fruit when you walk past those market stalls...