Deerhoof, Flying, and the Greenheads

deerhoofHi hi! Hi! Fun! Fun! Groovy times! Happy ok fun-ness! Cool man -go!!

That’s my new opening for the column. I’m trying to appeal to a broader demographic, particularly reaching out for a change to the under-seventy-five-sters out there because I’ve been told that the youth market is “where it’s at”, as they say (or at least some of them do, sometimes.) And now, on with the writing part!

Don’t know if many folks hereabouts know about the San Francisco band Deerhoof, but I’d certainly like to suggest that it’s a good idea, particularly for those who like surprises. Deerhoof are noisy, experimental, playful, melodic, and generally intriguing in a number of ways; for instance, though they are definitely an indie band and prone toward occasional stretches of whimsicality, they can in fact play their way out of a paper bag.

They have a pixie-voiced Asian lead singer/bassist named Satomi Matsuzaki, but also a truly scorching rhythm section with actual chops (very unusual nowadays for an indie band), including a slamming drummer, Greg Saunier, and a guitarist, John Dieterich, with an actual sound (somewhat reminiscent of XTC’s Andy Partridge), both of whom use some fairly advanced and even jazzy voicings without ever sounding academic.

Luckily for those of us with no money, they’ve posted their latest album, “Offend Maggie”, in its entirety on their myspace page (“Basketball Get Your Groove Back” is a fun place to start; I also recommend “Jagged Fruit”, “Numina O”, and “My Purple Past” -and if you like these, there’s lots more, as this is their seventh album.)

They just toured the New England area last week, and I am inconsolable for having missed them, especially as their support act was the band Flying, which includes a longtime Kelp favorite, Wellfleet’s Eben Portnoy. I’ve talked about Flying in these pages before -their debut album, “Just One Second Ago Broken Eggshell”, is also a real eye-opener, and the more recent “Faces Of The Night” also has some fine moments (for instance, the tracks “A Cloud in Doubt” and “Firetruck”) -and now they’re on a cross-country tour with Deerhoof and we should all be very proud indeed!

Last summer Eben married his band mate, Sarah Magenheimer, and they formed a new band (or at least a duo) called Fertile Crescent, who also have some interesting music up on myspace. Both of Eben’s outfits share with Deerhoof a real desire to come up with something truly new and original – listed as influences on the Fertile Crescent site are “radios stuck between stations” and “sounds of trees growing”, and their music can sometimes come across as similarly twee, but it’s never less than inventive, and in the context of our current musical landscape, this is a public service, a wakeup call of a sort not too many folks go to the trouble to make nowadays, and it’s gratifying to see them enjoying some success.

Closer to home, cape stalwarts the Greenheads seem to be enjoying a well-deserved dollop of local buzz lately. A local staple for decades, the band has changed form many times under the stewardship of the inimitable Steve Wood, who first graced our stages as a member of the Freeze, and there’s no one who rocks harder and more passionately. The current edition of the Greenheads is a stripped-down trio that also features the singing and songwriting of Sarah Swain, and it has been a lot of fun watching these two camps converge. Sarah’s a sweetheart anyway, and when she’s on stage with Steve she’s almost always glowing like a kid in a candy store, and her enthusiasm is infectious to the point that the band is really having a whole new life.

When I saw them at Joe’s Beach Bar in Orleans last week, not only did they have a whole bunch of new songs, but Sarah’s learning to shout, and Steve, in an explosion of gentlemanliness and maturity, has actually turned down some. Now, to me, the idea of Steve Wood turning down is more than slightly blasphemous, and I never would’ve suggested it, but right now everyone in this band (including Steve’s son and drummer, Sam Wood, who gets better every time I see them and is now slamming with real authority) is having so much fun that it’s just working like a charm. See for yourself this Saturday at the Island Merchant in Hyannis -tell ’em Thursty sent you.

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