Over the course of more than two decades, Deerhoof have found novel and gleeful ways to combine blasts of cacophonous noise, Greg Saunier’s unhinged drumming, razor-sharp guitar riffs and Satomi Matsuzaki’s obtuse sing-song into each firecracker of an album. Gradually, however, they’ve moved towards a more pop-oriented sound, and The Magic, their 13th studio LP, is their most accessible and fully-realized yet. Maintaining their knack for surprise, The Magic explores how a band that has seemingly tried everything keeps themselves excited by playing what, at first glance, seems like unabashed, surprisingly straightforward rock n’ roll.
The most captivating moments on The Magic are often the subtlest. On “Criminals of the Dream,” a gorgeous synthesizer bubbles up momentarily out of the sludge, and lead single “Plastic Thrills” packs the wallop of a Zeppelin rocker, but culminates in a hilariously languid guitar solo. The Magic swings back and forth through a hodge-podge of styles; snot-nosed punk rubs shoulders with sweet synth pop, while a bright-eyed take on glam-rock leads straight into a murky and inventive cover of the Ink Spots’ 1941 hit “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.”
On The Magic, Deerhoof show off both their practiced chemistry and the wide variety that exists within their sound while channeling the eagerness and curiosity of kids recording their first demos in the depths of a Mountain Dew binge. They make it seem effortless, however — and that’s where the magic comes in.
—Max Savage Levenson