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Breakup Song

Breakup Song


Something heard while listening to this tea party of avant-garde pop with a death rattle cough made me look through the credits for a Mr W. Wonka. A long shot, admittedly, but these eleven tracks seem to have many of the same ingredients as those 'exploding candies for your enemies'. The results are certainly similar, and this is no bad thing. Breakup Song fizzles with teeth-rattling strangeness through some of the catchiest pop music released this year, seducing listeners with little hooks and repetitions while constantly screwing with any semblance of a formula through scratchy guitars and stuttering drums. The mixing desk must have melted.

Right from the opener 'Breakup Songs', Deerhoof's paradox is immediate; the floating warmth of fluttering female vocals battling a militant snare. And as the song squelches through a slick groove of noise, all San Francisco cool, a break comes with a keyboard riff straight from a carousel in Scunthorpe. As this fades, sound effects from Pong compete with cymbals swooshing backwards and Satomi Matsuzaki sings like she's a subway announcer. This is 'There's That Grin'. By the end, guitars spiky with fuzz have inconceivably joined in and we're briefly listening to Depeche Mode covered by Nirvana. Then the computer stops working at its thirty seconds of panicked bleeps and error messages somehow singing in time. Then 'Bad Kids to the Front' starts up with a cuckoo clock driven to insanity - presumably after listening to the two tracks it's following - before melody battles a Nintendo circa 1986. The eighties theme continues for 'Zero Seconds Pause', where the riff is unashamedly wearing a shell suit and tossing its permed hair. It's often said Deerhoof are hard to define, which is nonsense; they are just about everything. No, really.

A lull comes in the shape of 'To Fly or Not to Fly' and 'We Do Parties', both decidedly ordinary works of noise in their context. Still, the album rarely lets up and the band parade their particular brand of peculiar with a strange calm. They shape-shift, but with precision. This is a band in control.

It's hard to comprehend how close to normal the entire affair is. From the opening moments through the closing refrain, something is almost always simple enough to grab hold of but some fantasy swoops in and dangles it just out of reach. It's normal, if normal were heard through ears turned inside out and back to front.

by Now Then Sheffield