Rats and children listen

Deerhoof transmits unearthly, seductive music.

by Keri Carlson

Deerhoof’s melodies are so enduring because they sound as though they come from the playground. They carry the same gleefulness and marching drum rhythm as a child’s jump rope song.

It makes sense that the band uses these innocent melodies to spin the tale of the milk man, a ghostly character that puts the Pied Piper to shame in terms of creepiness. “Come closer/ How beautiful I play sounds” singer Satomi Matsuzaki croons in her extraordinarily high-pitched vocals before the music bursts as she cries, “Boys and girls!” The title track “Milk Man,” like the Pied Piper, dazzles listeners with Deerhoof’s most epic song; yet the appeal is, at the same time, very sinister.

Deerhoof albums have always sounded like the band records 30 seconds of their favorite pop guitar hooks onto a cassette, then leaves the tape on the dashboard on a sunny afternoon. The band creates a wonderful mix of pop versus noise. It’s like quickly switching channels to hear snippets of commercial jingles.

“Milk Man” expands the ideas from their last albums, turning the commercials into a film. The songs are much longer and more developed. In a way, it is Deerhoof turning to the sensible side of pop. But that really only means now your grandma will ask you politely to turn off that racket, instead of screaming and running in horror as she would have to snuff out Deerhoof’s past work.

Deerhoof though, is still light years away from making it to the Billboard charts. On this album, the band takes a rest from experimenting to polish their established ideas. Matsuzaki’s vocals have never sounded more lovely and eerie as they do on “Milk Man.” While most hardcore fans will probably like older albums like “Reveille” and “Apple O’ ” more for their overall quirkiness, some of Deerhoof’s best songs can be found on “Milk Man.”

“Milking” is a perfect example of the band at their brilliant best. The song stomps in a cute and catchy sing-along chorus only to break down to an inebriated trumpet and belligerent distorted guitars.

This is much like the theme of the album. The milk man straddles a line between magical dreams and evilness. The album cover shows him gushing blood; but he is stabbed by bananas and a strawberry.

Whether or nor the milk man is truly evil, the album ends with visions of flying over strawberry fields and banana trees. So just give in like the rest of the kids, and follow Deerhoof’s tune.