Pitchfork (Website) - "The avant-pop stalwarts return with one of their loosest and most rock-heavy records yet, slightly bending their own rules while remaining stubbornly singular."
Audio Mixers: John Dieterich; Greg Saunier.
Recording information: The Fox Building, Albuquereue, NM (10/29/2015-11/03/2015).
Photographer: Madeline Cass.
On albums like La Isla Bonita and Breakup Song, Deerhoof took a back-to-basics approach, concentrating on joyful blasts of noise pop and surprising funk. With The Magic, they look back even further, borrowing inspiration from the music they loved as children. Given the youthful wonder and spontaneity that drive their music -- no matter how sophisticated their ideas and playing are -- it's an inspired concept. While making the album, Deerhoof took that spontaneity to extremes: they wrote and recorded most of The Magic within a week, while the three tracks they submitted to HBO's '70s music industry drama Vinyl were penned over a weekend. Somewhat perversely, these more traditional-sounding rock songs are among The Magic's freshest moments. It's amusing to hear them impersonate an old-school rock & roll band, but the more closely they imitate rock tropes, the more their quirks stand out, resulting in funhouse mirror versions of punk, glam, and hair metal. "Plastic Thrills" distills rock to a strutting riff and nihilistic lyrics that sound surprising -- and all the more effective -- coming out of Greg Saunier and Satomi Matsuzaki's mouths, while Ed Rodriguez's lead vocal on the brilliant Stooges caricature "That Ain't No Life to Me" adds to the feeling that this is the work of another band. Later, "Dispossessor" features a truckload of the widdly guitars that Deerhoof normally put in very different surroundings. As on the Ramones-inspired La Isla Bonita, The Magic finds the band riffing on its own history as much as the rock songbook. "Kafe Mania!" is quintessential Deerhoof, its outbursts topped by Matsuzaki's sweetly rhythmic roll call of caffeinated beverages, while "Little Hollywood" recalls Deerhoof vs. Evil's jittery electro-pop experiments and "Debut" showcases the polyrhythms that became a staple of their music over the years. More often than not, the bandmembers' homages to their childhood favorites end up sounding completely Deerhoof: with Matsuzaki on lead vocals, the arena-ready chug of "Acceptance Speech" sounds worlds away from the album's other rock pastiches. On "Life Is Suffering," the band reconfigures soul music, with Saunier and Matsuzaki's climbing harmonies making it a standout. ~ Heather Phares