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Deerhoof: La Isla Bonita

Album Reviews:

Rolling Stone - 3 stars out of 5 -- "What emerges is a basement-punk groove band where you're never quite sure where the groove will take you."

Spin - "[T]he result is another schitzo-slapstick-gaga-tee-hee-bonkers Deerhoof album packed with silly-willy lyrics, frenzied melodies, and famously skittish drumming."

Entertainment Weekly - "The foursome pack as many ideas as possible into each delirious minute." -- Grade: B+

CMJ - "The blissed-out Morricone-on-the-shore opening sequence of 'Tiny Bubbles' practically rolls through headphones like a lazy tumbleweed getting swallowed by the sea before the track gets the staccato Deerhoof treatment..."

Paste (magazine) - "'Paradise Girls' is possibly the most charming song on the record, with hyper-pinched guitar riffs spitting loudly at the opening as though it were a blipping signal to brace yourself before the dance..."

Album Notes

Deerhoof celebrated their 20th anniversary with the release of La Isla Bonita, another fine example of how the band changes course on almost every album. Like Deerhoof vs. Evil and Breakup Song before it, Bonita is another concentrated burst of whimsy. It's a format that suits Deerhoof, as well as this album's inspiration, the Ramones. The cover of "Pinhead" they played during rehearsals shaped the album's approach, and in many ways, this is Deerhoof's version of garage rock (or technically, basement rock -- the band bashed out La Isla Bonita in Ed Rodriguez's basement in a week). The Ramones influence is clearest on "Exit Only"'s blitzkrieg riffs and bratty beats, though lyrics like "welcome to speech of freedom" are Deerhoof through and through. Elsewhere, they reconfigure punk's guitar-bass-drums approach into fascinating interplay. Rodriguez and John Dieterich's guitars are more active than they've been in some time: "Tiny Bubbles" alone ranges from surf-lounge to intricate, knotty passages and tight, disco-inspired rhythms, while the pair's work on "Big House Waltz" is dense and spacious at the same time. It's a big shift from Breakup Song's fractured electropop -- indeed, there's a surprisingly funky groove behind the winning "Paradise Girls," an homage to "smart girls" who "play bass guitar" with a riff reminiscent of the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster," and "Oh Bummer," which boasts a taut rhythm section that evokes Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Elsewhere, Deerhoof play off their own history as much as any of their other influences: "Doom," a fuzzy rocker that's more charming than storming, could've appeared on one of their early-2000s albums along with the appealingly herky-jerky "Last Fad," while "Mirror Monster" puts their often-neglected serene side in the spotlight. Even on these songs, it feels more like Deerhoof are coming full circle than looking back; that they've been able to put different but cohesive spins on their sound so well, and for so long, is truly remarkable. ~ Heather Phares


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