20 Years into a career that continues to be the musical equivalent of wandering through Willy Wonka’s factory, Deerhoof return after 2012’s “Breakup Songs” with their new 10-song collection “La Isla Bonita”. Long-term fans need not fear the title indicating a newly-discovered passion for early(ish) Madonna material, it’s the same old vibrantly eclectic mix of guitars, grooves, bubblegum and darkness (hence the Wonka parallel) that the band have consistently delivered. The press blurb doesn’t tell us why they’ve picked “La Isla” as a title. If you see them, could you ask them for us?
Taken from demos recorded in Greg Saunier’s basement with Satomi’s vocals added later, “Bonita” opens with “Paradise Girls” a funky, polyrhythmic hymn to “Girls who play the bass guitar” -sort of Talking Heads without Byrne’s voice. It’s fantastically catchy. Next up is “Mirror Monster”, a slower, sadder song that still retains a loping groove with Greg also taking on vocals. Short,but to the point. That’s followed by “Doom” where the groove is still driving the tune onwards with John and Ed’s guitars cranked up in the mix, throwing a spidery riff into the song. “Last Fad” is angular, post-punk at it’s finest.
“Tiny Bubbles” consists of Satomi’s vocals hovering above the maelstrom of snarling guitars and arguing drums. “Exit Only” comes across as Blondie with a bit of a grump on -“Too many choice / To order breakfast” go the lyrics (to these ears). Can’t argue with that. “Big House Waltz” is one of the standout tracks – an unsettling groove leading with shared vocals and a sense of a point being made, but I can’t quite make out what. The press release mentions “declining empires” and “portrait of an American Weimar” as being the primary lyrical concern this time around, so there’s definitely something amiss in Mr Wonka’s factory.
“Oh Bummer” finishes the CD off with Greg taking the lead vocals, apologising for his past errors “When I was Emperor / I lied to everyone but you” (again, this is my take..). This final cataclysmic breakdown brings “La Isla” to an end on a discordant note of uncertainty and foreboding. This is Deerhoof doing what Deerhoof does best, ingeniously countering the sweet with the very sour, impressively enthralling after all these years. A very enjoyable release.