Album Review: Deerhoof – Future Teenage Cave Artists

This four-piece, originating from San Francisco predominantly, punctuated the year with a string of singles from upcoming album “Future Teenage Cave Artists”. Previous singles had fans salivating and the album will undoubtably sate fans and beyond; with leaps, hops and skips into unfamiliar territory. With over a dozen albums since their first in 1997, it would be quite permissible that the group’s creative oasis would run dry by now. However, the band have brewed an entirely new and appropriate concept for their latest full release, which sees their album expressing the struggle of the emotions unraveling in our rapidly changing future. The album’s concept is dystopian yet hopeful, sound tracking “a lost world and every failed attempt to save it”. But the band explains their central inspiration are the hopeful heroes of their future surviving with new ways of life: aka, the Future Teenage Cave Artists.

Main vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki could easily substitute Collins’ Dictionary’s entry for euphoria, excitement flowing via the startlingly sweet ‘Oh’s opening “The Loved One”, and equally elsewhere. The sheer beauty of Matsuzaki’s voice, veiled but ultimately elevated by the fragility and trepidation also in the lyrics, truly delivers the record’s message of the future’s urgent reinvention. The band foresees this as a reinvention of the “food systems, energy systems and political systems” which the future will inevitably require. Tonally, the album meshes brusque guitar sounds and lilting vocals, mirroring the demolishing of the past and future reinvigoration. Synchronicity is immediately felt by the ebb and flow of the trio’s vocal duties, a partnership is integral to many of the song’s emotions; whispered three-part harmonies included. Throughout, a charming and unmanicured production greases the DIY cogs of the album, from fuzzy fade outs reminiscent of used turntables to woozy, unadorned guitar finishes. As ever, guitarists John Dietrich and Ed Rodriguez are blacksmiths in forging slanted riffs which veer miles from the typical rock, or even alternative rock, repertoire; particularly with elastic feats of playing on “Zazeet”.

This vision is clearest upon the opening title track, as yearning but triumphant as the future Deerhoof paint with the album. Intros and outros are structured impeccably. Such flourishes range from the harsh but enveloping distortion drenched crescendo concluding “Sympathy for the Baby Boo”, to the faded instrumentation on “Zazeet”, leaving only Matsuzaki’s fantastical and lilting vocal of “finding shiny Milky Ways”. Fourth track “O Ye Saddle Babes” sees a bombastic rhythm section introduce an R&B blast, Matsuzaki emitting rap style rhymes. Later, the trio of “Zazeet”, “Fraction Anthem” and “Farewell Symphony” display a math-rock infused sandwich; the flavoursome filling being the soft, acoustically strummed “Fraction Anthem”. Bookending the sandwich, “Farewell Symphony” sees drummer Greg Saunier reign majestically over Ed Rodriguez’s sustained notes, the drums soloing in a “Don Caballero”-like manner but altogether more otherworldly. The pensive inflections of “Fraction Anthem” continue into “Reduced Guilt”, with boisterous percussion but blissful harmonies, and even further on “I Call On Thee”, which echoes the hopefulness of the band’s concept. Even lacking lyrics, the sombre sole piano arrangement of the track, alongside the title’s longing, bely a loss in the urgency for change but a triumph in such a shift. With this balance of tone, Deerhoof ponder: how must we “adapt- mentally, spiritually, emotionally- to a world that is already increasingly threat-filled”, will our “mutual networks of aid become our best example of civilisation, theirs and other’s DIY basement shows become the real high art”?

The collective tracks wield a prescient concept, inviting listeners into a troubled world with perhaps more optimism than our own. It simultaneously balances genres articulately, practically embracing each other across tracks. The album mystifys by packing this mass of goodness into little over half an hour, its relative shortness demanding further listens to unravel its beauty and intent.

Track-list: 1. Future Teenage Cave Artists 2. Sympathy For The Baby Boo 3. The Lover 4. O Ye Saddle Babes 5. New Orphan Asylum For Spirited Deerchildren 6. Zazeet 7. Fraction Anthem 8. Farewell Symphony 9. Reduction Guilt 10. Damaged Eyes Squinting Into The Beautiful Overhot Sun 11. I Call On Thee

Pre-order here, and listen to the Future Teenage Cave Artists single below.

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