Deerhoof - La Isla Bonita

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2014-11-03

On this, their 12 album, ever-reliable San Francisco weirdies Deerhoof apparently looked to The Ramones’ ‘Pinhead’ for inspiration. You’d be hard-pressed to identify any straight-ahead punk riff-a-rama on La Isla Bonita, however. Instead, the fact the album shares its title with a famous Madonna song is a slightly better indication of where they’re at. La Isla Bonita is a pop album, albeit very possibly the weirdest one you’ve ever heard.  

In a way, every Deerhoof album sounds like a pop-smash greatest hits, just one beamed across from a dimension where they like their pop music to be as bonkers and out-there as possible while still retaining sugar-sweet melodies and danceable grooves. So fantastic opener ‘Paradise Girls’ definitely sounds like the group have attempted to refract Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’ through their own shattered-mirror sensibilities. Satomi Matsuzaki trills about “girls who are smart… who play bass guitar” over a martial beat which slips seamlessly into a mutant disco groove.

Can is apparently another influence on the album, and it’s one that's more readily detectable. The incongruously sunny ‘Doom’ tips its hat to the Krautrock legends’ hip-shaking ‘Moonshake’, while ‘Tiny Bubbles’ has tricksy yet powerful drumming worthy of the great Jaki Liebezeit himself. Elsewhere, ‘Last Fad’ combines no-wave guitar crunch with a deep bass groove and smooth harmonies, ‘Big House Waltz’ is underpinned by a low rumble loud enough to shake your house, and ‘Black Pitch’ splatters an irresistible highlife melody all over skittering drums.

Only the thunderous, speeding ‘Exit Only’ betrays the influence of The Ramones. By Deerhoof’s standards, it’s a competent rocker but little more, although does win the prize for craziest lyric: “Too many choice/ to order breakfast”.

Those who love Deerhoof most when they indulge their hard-rock/prog-rock instincts might feel a bit let down by La Isla Bonita, but what makes this band so wonderful is that, 20 years in, they’re still finding new sounds to explore while always sounding completely unique, funny, strange and beautiful. La Isla Bonita is classic pop, just not as we know it. 

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