Veteran indie rockers Deerhoof are back with ‘Mountain Moves’, an album that amalgamates their vehement, distorted guitars, visceral energy, and distress due to the election of president Donald Trump. The band have mentioned in recent interviews their anxiety thanks to the danger they might be put in due to Trump’s rise, and how small the issue makes them feel. But as Deerhoof have been releasing albums almost annually for twenty years, it was unlikely for them to remain silent on the issue, and that’s where ‘Mountain Moves’ comes in.
‘Mountain Moves’ kicks off with ‘Slow Motion Detonation’, with singer Satomi Matsuzaki singing the words “slow motion detonation” over a rough, apocalyptic rock instrumental. If the thought of a bomb exploding at an eerily gradual rate wasn’t enough, the very melodic ‘Con Sordino’ explores how useless the ‘little person’ can feel in this situation, with other voices being louder than theirs by default. The song’s message is both resonant and intelligible, with great lines like “I’m not afraid of the microphone, is it afraid of me?” and “your voice may be con sordino, but we know we can sing”.
While the album features some of Deerhoof’s best lyrical performances from recent releases, they manage to get their point across in a variety of ways. This includes ‘Begin Countdown’ focussing on a very destructive instrumental, a groovy cover of the Staples Singers’ political ‘Freedom Highway’, and a sombre passage of ‘Small Axe’ by Bob Marley.
While fitting in with the Deerhoof discography, thanks to the trademark guitar sound, and Matsuzaki’s delicate, yet feisty vocals, ‘Mountain Moves’ is made that bit better with a little help from some friends. Xenia Rubinos scats away on the song ‘Singalong Junk’, Matana Roberts unleashes her saxophone all over the title track, and Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner helps out with the album’s finest moment, ‘I Will Spite Survive’.
‘Mountain Moves’ doesn’t feel as complete as 2016’s ‘The Magic’. It’s an easy listen, and the guitars are nice, but considering its message, it sounds a little too modest. A more committed and consistent feeling of anger and resentment would’ve helped this album this a lot, and those emotions do appear from time to time in the band’s instrumentals, but Satomi Matsuzaki’s voice isn’t really emotive enough to carry the political narrative out throughout the album. Her singing style usually works to her advantage, but this is one of her most human and relatable album concepts, so it doesn’t work as well.
‘Mountain Moves’ lacks the cutting edge usually found on Deerhoof projects, but it’s still a very sincere album, with just about enough life in it to make for a gratifying listen. The lyrics alone make the album worthwhile, alongside Deerhoof’s quirky quintessence, but for those that have stuck with the band over the years, it’s easy to tell there’s a little something missing.
‘Mountain moves’ is out now via Joyful Noise. The albums full track-listing is as follows…
01 Slow Motion Detonation [ft. Juana Molina]
02 Con Sordino
03 I Will Spite Survive [ft. Jenn Wasner]
04 Come Down Here and Say That [ft. Lætitia Sadier]
05 Gracias a la Vida (Violeta Parra cover)
06 Begin Countdown
07 Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You [ft. Awkwafina]
08 Ay That’s Me
09 Palace of the Governors
10 Singalong Junk [ft. Xenia Rubinos]
11 Mountain Moves [ft. Matana Roberts]
12 Freedom Highway (The Staple Singers cover)
13 Sea Moves [ft. Chad Popple & Devin Hoff]
15 Small Axe (Bob Marley cover)