Imagine that you and five friends are standing in a brightly lit
kitchen. Strawberries and bananas are piled in the sinks and in
pots on the stove; more fruit squelches under foot. You and each of
your compatriots hold a kitchen utensil — ladle, whisk,
wooden spoon, can opener, salad fork. Even though you can’t
figure out why you’re there, you know you’re supposed
to make noises with your “instrument,” and each of you
only gets one beat to work with until it’s someone
else’s turn. In the middle of this fantastic kitchen,
there’s a devilishly cute girl who sings along with this
homemade percussion with a voice like a Sanrio character. And
inexplicably, The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” is
blasting in the background.

Music Reviews

That’s what it’s like to hear noise-rock band
Deerhoof’s latest offering, Milk Man. After the sweet,
crisp sounds of Apple O’, the band focused its ideas
into a concept album. Inspired by Ken Kagami’s cute yet
creepy art — which graces the album’s cover and liner
notes — Deerhoof tells the story of the Milk Man, a masked
Pied Piper-like character who lures children to his dreamland
home.

Opener “Milk Man” kicks off with the title
character’s siren song. Raw, vibrant guitar riffs contrast
perfectly with bassist/vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki’s dreamy,
childlike delivery. “Boys and girls, be mine / I’ll
take you to my dreamland,” sings Satomi — as the Milk
Man — against sunny, infectious rock instrumentals. Doubled
vocals counter the Milk Man’s call: “Boo, boo, the Milk
Man / Hide, hide, he’s masked man.”

But it’s no use: The children have fallen under the Milk
Man’s spell. The crashing, diabolical keyboard/guitar hook on
“Gija Dance” heralds parents’ panic as they
discover that their children have been lured away to a castle in
the clouds. The spell is soon broken, however, and Satomi calls
through the dense chorus singing as one of the enchanted children:
“Home is better than it seems.”

On tracks like “C” and “Milking,” the
band explores the sonic capabilities of their mostly conventional
formula (guitars, bass, drums, synths), wringing even the most
improbable sounds out of their instruments. But Milk
Man’s
textures are intricate, never too heavily layered.
Deerhoof always leaves room for ornamentation by a well-placed
burst of static or tickled synthesizer.

Milk Man sounds more accessible and more conventional
than Apple O’; listeners can accept and digest the
album’s unconventional combinations of sounds and ideas
easily. Why shouldn’t a band that communicates moods of
hypnosis, joy, loss and paranoia take its listeners on a little
Pied Piper journey of their own?

Such contrasting elements can’t be paired together well
without care and consideration, and that’s where Milk
Man’s
seductive power lies. Deerhoof enchants without
pretension, never letting us hear the calculations behind their
craft. They’ve synthesized a kind of harmony out of sonic
scrap paper, fairy-tale books and motor-scooter engines. Succumb to
Deerhoof’s seductive songs: Let Milk Man lead you
through the clouds to a land of strawberry fields and banana
trees.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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