Thursday, January 27, 2011

Deerhoof Vs. Evil Vs. Pitchfork

I find it funny how Deerhoof used to be one of those bands that could do no wrong in the eyes of Pitchfork, especially in light of the sliding scores of reviews of the both this album and its predecessor - Offend Maggie. Honestly, Deerhoof isn't doing anything all that different on Vs. Evil to what they did on Reveille or Apple 'O. There's still plenty of off kilter prog pop and Satomi's semi-twee vocal delivery. There's certainly not enough difference to explain away an 8.9 for Friend Opportunity as opposed to the 6.7 awarded to this release. It's even harder for me to stomach knowing that Douglas Wolk didn't even mention "Super Duper Rescue Heads" in his review. That might be the album's best song. The band even made a video for it that was hosted on Pitchfork's site not that long before the release of this album. Part of me wants to chalk it up to what could be called the "Polyvinyl curse," Deerhoof having jumped ship from Kill Rock Stars to Polyvinyl and this being the band's first release on the label. Polyvinyl at one time was heavily associated with what used to predominantly be a vein of indie rock that time has not been too kind to - emo. In this case it wasn't just emo but the label's onetime flagship act is what could be interpreted as emo's least successful and yet most pretentious band - Joan of Arc. I don't recall a single even remotely positive leaning review for that band on Pitchfork and in fact seem to remember reading an interview with Tim Kinsella of that band in Skyscraper magazine about how he had met Pitchfork founder Ryan Schrieber at a bar in Chicago and attempted to start a fight with him over how the site had ruined his band's career. Let's forget for a second that Joan of Arc's main claim to semi-recognition is the fact that they shared members with Cap n' Jazz and not that they ever made a note of music worth a damn. It only takes a simple search using Pitchfork's own advanced search capabilities to peruse the Polyvinyl reviews on the site and see that most releases on the label scored well below average with a few notable exceptions (Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna comes to mind). It could also be chalked up to younger reviewers/changing of the guard at the site too. I mean Deerhoof aren't exactly in line with the current nostalgia wave of hazy sounding groups since they mostly get by on muscular guitar/bass/drums concoctions that are fairly mathy. It would be easier to let this bumble around in my brain if I knew that this opinion came from the sole mind of Mr. Wolk, but as Ryan Schrieber told The New York Times recently, Pitchfork operates on a hive mind mentality and as such they would have had to get several writers to agree on this score.

While I personally can't say that I think Vs. Evil is Deerhoof's best album, it's far from their worst - which is what is implied by the significantly lower score as compared to these:
Reveille - 8.5
Apple 'O - 8.3
Milk Man - 7.6
Runners Four - 9.0
Friend Opportunity - 8.9
Offend Maggie - 7.6

See Douglas Wolk's review here.

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