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ALBUM REVIEW: DEERHOOF – ‘FUTURE TEENAGE CAVE ARTISTS’

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Future Teenage Cave Artists’ is the 15th studio album from art pop, art rock, whatever they are darlings Deerhoof. A group that bears a vast career spanning over 2 decades, influencing many down the line. Animal Collective? This new record proves that they are just as vital today than ever, and never a one trick pony. In it’s 37 minute run time ‘Cave Artists’ presents a hot collection of bonkers. The band rarely conform to structure and conformity, with many of the tracks forming unexpected sonic choices. Take ‘Zazeet’ for example, where the synths sound more like helium being let out of a balloon than synths. Then the constant appearances of reversed dub drums and vinyl popping on ‘Reduced Guilt’ sound more like a DJ Shadow project than anything conventional. While achieving all this it can be quite beautiful too. ‘Damaged Eyes Squinting Into The Beautiful Overhot Sun’ plays like a neo psychedelia soundscape over pristine reels of tape.

To warn fans of the last record. This one is more of a low fi affair. The title track presents it from the get go. It is built around a loop of bottle neck guitars. They have a strident quality to them, which is akin to a lost demo from a 90s garage rock track. Atop of this are some washy, dream pop synths that dive in and out. I love Greg Saunier’s drums here, especially as they reach claustrophobic territory near the end. Satomi Matsukai delivers lyrics about wanting to be a ‘vandal’ to world traditions. Lines about ‘painting animals on cave walls’ and ‘reforming your religion in the long run’ suggest an overthrow of sorts. Maybe against technology. After all the album sleeve depicts a strange creature atop of a smartphone attacking a person with it’s flash. I’ll take a moment here to say I love the album artwork. It screams alike to the artistic dada movement.

Following this is ‘Sympathy for the Baby Boo’. A number that has these distorted, jagged guitar solos that remind me a lot of The Beatles ‘White Album’. It comes complete with manipulated vocals and tin box drums. Lyrically it is the soundtrack to all the baby boomers of the world. Matsukai plays with her words. ‘You’re a little wild thing aren’t you? Baby boo, baby boom boom’. This number is infectious in it’s art pop glory. It is like being pelted into a field of love. What a sunny number. It stands out in Deerhoof’s canon by including some more retro musical approaches. The blusier influences that crop up all over the riffs are the biggest seller.

Whilst The Loved One doesn’t add much to what Deerhoof have presented previously, It is an enjoyable, reverb heavy trip. The bottle neck guitars pop in again which i’m not complaining about. The repetitious vocals hypnotise into ‘thinking something over’. Maybe it is about converting to atheism. We are later told religion will be lost in the future. Watch out guys. The prophets are here. 

‘O Ye Saddle Babes’ is a wild change of pace. Instrumentally it sounds like that era of fusion Jazz that took influences from funk rock. There are these oscillating, crunching guitar riffs that have no room to breathe due to these completely polyrhythmic grooves crushing up every bit of space between the notes. That can not be easy to pull off, but here it makes for a daring moment of genius. Yes, Miles Davis would approve of this one. Lyrically it’s no dud either. It feels like a protest of sorts as Matsukai delivers a finger snapping, quirky vocal performance. She wails ‘Cowboys were just a corporate invention. Stick figure futures ain’t what they used to be’ , before asking ‘Can we all just get along? Little doggies’. 

And if you think this wordplay is bizarre, think again. What in the hell is going on on ‘New Orphan Asylum For Spirited Deerchildren’? Lyrically it is a take on animal hunting, but out of all animals it is Bambis? Yes. Like the disney creature. Instrumentally there are some imaginative, playful guitar plucking, which sounds straight out of some obscure surfing video game. The second half takes a 180 turn, favouring mournful, slow burning guitars. The lyrics are bitter. ‘The hardest part was knowing that both parents were still alive’. Love this one too.

More sonic changeups appear in this eclectic record. ‘Fraction Anthem’ is like the Flaming Lips attempting (and doing perfectly) to cover an old fashioned gospel number. The track is filled with chilled out psychedelic keys and reverb heavy electric guitars. Saunier takes on vocal duties. The evangelical ‘For we, though many, are one bread and one body’  is repeated throughout it’s chorus. I think this would please Tame Impala fans too; ‘Farewell Symphony’ on the other hand (for the first part) reminds me of Daft Punk’s ‘Human After All’ album. Comprising rock influences with heavy electronics. The second is very classical. That’s if you ignore the distorted guitars cutting in and out of the mix. This is lushious, creative production to my ears. Big Yes.

The classical influences pop up again on the closer, ‘I Call On Thee’. A cover of the Bach prelude, It strips away the claustrophobicness of it’s preceding tracks. Instead leaving a raw and beautiful skeletal rendition. The unoiled, squeaking foot pedals are left in the mix. They add to it in a strange low fi way. It reminds me of the time I almost bought a broken, slightly detuned piano in a junk shop, before wondering how i’d carry it home. 

Standout Tracks: ‘Future Teenage Cave Artists’, ‘Sympathy for the Baby Boo’, ‘O Ye Saddle Babes’, ‘New Orphan Asylum for Spirited Deerchildren’, ‘Fraction Anthem’, ‘”Farewell” Symphony’, I Call On Thee’

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INTRODUCING – A.A. WILLIAMS
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