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Milk Man

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Album Review

Deerhoof follows Apple O', an album that won the group ever-growing critical and popular acclaim, with Milk Man, an album even more conceptual and song-oriented than its predecessor. Inspired by the spooky yet adorable work of illustrator Ken Kagami — whose art graces the album's cover and liner notes — Milk Man tells the tale of a masked, pied piper-like being who lures children into his dreamland and then traps them there. The vision and the visuals surrounding the album are a perfect fit with Deerhoof's music, and, perhaps befitting Milk Man's status as a concept album, this time around the band incorporates more prog rock-like keyboards and other electronics into its sound. The pretty ballad "Dream Wanderer's Tune," with its lyrics about kings in castles in the sky and its playfully elaborate keyboards, exemplifies Deerhoof's move to more intricate, contemplative music. Since the album is relatively restrained, it's not quite as buoyant as Apple O' or Reveille, and it lacks a little bit of the delirious overload of Deerhoof's earliest work, but that doesn't mean that it's less distinctive. "Desapareceré" is one of Milk Man's best and most unique tracks, mixing clicking and shuffling electronic drums with sugary synths and Spanish lyrics into a very different take on electronic pop; "Dog on the Sidewalk" consists mostly of bubbling and fizzing electronics and Satomi Matsuzaki's deceptively simple vocals. Milk Man does have its fair share of noise, particularly on the instrumentals "Rainbow Silhouette of the Milky Rain" and "That Big Orange Sun Run Over Speed Light," as well as on "Song of Sorn," which starts out as a burst of noise and ends up oddly, but distinctly, poppy. This poppiness is responsible for many of Milk Man's best moments, including the sunny title track and "Milking" — which are among the most straightforwardly melodic songs Deerhoof have ever written — as well as the sweet final track, "New Sneakers," which does indeed capture the childlike glee of new shoes in lyrics like "Skipping all over with these shoes/Oh speed." Milk Man isn't all sweetness and light, though: Greg Saunier's lumbering drumming adds an extra edge to the monster party that is "Giga Dance"; "C"'s brittle vocal melody is mirrored by guitars that are pretty at first but then turn loud and thrashy. But even in its louder moments, Milk Man is a surprisingly subtle album, and one that takes Deerhoof's music in quietly exciting new directions.


Formed: 1994 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

By turns cuddly and chaotic, San Francisco's Deerhoof mix noise, sugary melodies, and an experimental spirit into sweetly challenging and utterly distinctive music that made them one of the most acclaimed acts of the 2000s and 2010s. The group began as the brainchild of guitarist Rob Fisk and drummer/keyboardist Greg Saunier in 1994; early releases, such as the 1995 7"s Return of the Woods M'Lady and For Those of Us on Foot, had a more traditionally harsh, no wave-inspired sound, though they also...
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