Review Summary: Deerhoof gain 4th member, make album about Adam and Eve, rock.
As far as titles go, Apple O’ is a fairly appropriate one for Deerhoof’s 2003 release. The album itself is a concept album about the biblical romance of Adam and Eve, as well as romance in general; and the title can be seen from two directions as also. Could it be a fraction of the cliché “you are the apple of my eye,” or a tongue in cheek reference to the forbidden fruit which Eve so sinfully picked? But if you (like I) aren’t very fluent in the chirps of lead singer, Satomi Matsuzaki, you probably wouldn’t even know the difference.
Besides Ms. Matsuzaki, Deerhoof is made up of Greg Saunier, Rob Fisk and Chris Cohen. The band had been around damn near a decade before dropping Apple O’, and had seen a few drastic changes in sound, as well as the addition of few band members (Matsuzaki and Cohen were added later) prior to the disk. Apple O’ is the band in top form, whatever that means. The fact remains that, besides Saunier (one of the coolest drummers ever) and his spastic fills, the band is relatively untrained in the realms of actual musicianship. Rather, they take influence from bizarre sixties tragedies, the Shaggs, by making cutesy pop music out of jagged, out of tune chords and strangely abrasive melodies. Fisk and Cohen’s spindly guitar crunch makes up the backbone of the band’s sound, minimalist in its absence, and crushingly intricate while in full force. Like a puzzle, where the pieces, despite how crudely cut, fit together in an impenetrable wall of sound.
Many of the song’s titles directly reflect the album’s overall concept (see: L’amour Stories, The Forbidden Fruits, Adam+Eve Connection, Dinner for Two, Sealed With A Kiss, et al) and even album highlight, Apple Bomb, retains some of that same Adam and Eve imagery. The queerly named tune begins with Satomi’s soft coo and a tinkling guitar line, before building up into a heavy, Slint meets (early) Blonde Redhead jam. When the chorus bursts into flames and then slows down to half time it is guaranteed to knock your socks off. Other tracks, like Panda Panda Panda retain no obvious connection to this growing tale of love, but Panda’s off-kilter beats and drastic key changes will have any fan doing their best to sing/dance along. Other key tracks include the aforementioned Adam+Eve Connection, which with its heavy psychedelic introduction and the introduction of acoustic guitars to the CD, gives a break from the spazz and volatility of earlier tracks. Adam+Eve also features the first bit of male vocals, perhaps a symbol of the love between the Adam and Eve characters. Regardless, Saunier, who does the singing, has a fantastic voice (he was raised in a barber shop quartet,) and one that compliments Matsuzaki’s very well indeed.
Overall, Apple O’ is a fantastically child-like look at religion, as well as a creative and stimulating musical journey. Obtain and see.