For all their unkempt, unpredictable lurches, San Francisco post-punk veterans Deerhoof have always been singularly susceptible to reduction towards the narrowest of high-concept confines#&8212;tiny Asian girl plus big gawky guitar, etc. Admittedly, that raw, undercooked juxtaposition was enough to power them through a half decade's worth of records, now looming large as a formative influence for bright young bands like Sleigh Bells, who stretch pop between even wider poles of thrash and twee. But listening to the band's self-recorded tenth full-length, Deerhoof vs. Evil, a fiercely eclectic album that remains light and quick, it's essential to note just how versatile they've become, how odd they've remained. No other Deerhoof record follows a lovely, acoustic Candelabra-lit folk ballad with a balls-out psych cover of an obscure Greek movie theme from the 1960s, anyway.
Satomi Matsuzaki, first heard here singing in Catalan over choppy guitar figures, has gradually complicated her high, limited voice with additional dimensions. She still lays odd declarative phrases over her band's tricky instrumentals, but she's become more conversational than cutesy, her mantras less manga. There are a handful of sparse, electro-laced pop songs on this record as appealing as any the band has produced in its 16 years. And while there are certainly lulls and heavy, knotted bits, the cumulative effect is rather frothy and fun. While 2005's The Runner's Four is probably their definitive record still, Deerhoof vs. Evil is more easily digested. It's got ample musical wanderlust with tighter concision, packing ever-blooming variations into three-minute boxes of uncommon grace.