Lo-fi high five music reviews: Deerhoof — “Future Teenage Cave Artists” (2020)

When I was fourteen, I often dragged my dad and sister to my room to listen to my odd discoveries from my most recent library visit. In response, perhaps I should have been more prepared for their concerned expressions, especially after my first huge phase with progressive and psychedelic rock. My sister, looking at me as if she knew I was the gay nerd of the family, just nodded and asked if she could borrow my Legend of Zelda cartridges. My dad, proud that he was able to get me into his favorite prog bands, was unsure what to make of me once I made the (un)natural turn toward noise rock.

Under the pretense that I was a weird kid already, it only made sense that my first Deerhoof record, “Friend Opportunity (2007),” would be perfect for me. There are plenty of records I consider foundational to how I interact with music on an emotional level, but the noise/indie rock band Deerhoof seemed to take everything I fathomed as weird in progressive rock and scribbled all over it with crayon. Eventually, I grew to listen to every single Deerhoof record since that time in high school, and I would soon learn to think of them as a serious and important group in contemporary music.

Deerhoof ’s most recent record, “Future Teenage Cave Artists,” is almost a return to form for the band, calling back to the psychedelic influences that made their midcareer albums so iconic. The past decade of Deerhoof albums have held a prominent indie rock demeanor, and although “Future Teenage Cave Artists” is virtually no different, this sounds like the most genuine Deerhoof record since 2016’s “The Magic,” and potentially the weirdest since 2012’s “Breakup Song.” It’s been a long time since a Deerhoof record has had such an emphasis on its atmosphere, though that feeling also stems from a band whose career hasn’t slowed down for a second since 1994. “Future Teenage Cave Artists” wobbles drunkenly in songs such as “Reduced Guilt” and the title track, whereas other songs, like “Damaged Eye Squinting into the Beautiful Overhot Sun,” fit into a simple indie rock structure.

After a string of relatively straight-forward Deerhoof albums (as “straight-forward” a band like them can be), “Future Teenage Cave Artists” is a reminder that the band is willing to learn from failed ventures. Deerhoof has never been a “mature” sounding band, but they shouldn’t be taken too seriously, either. With “Future Teenage Cave Artists,” I recall the moments of “Offend Maggie” (2008) or “Friend Opportunity” (2004) where all the gibberish lyrics and sonic textures weren’t meant to be deciphered with any intense analysis, but rather the lyrics were just words that sounded as if they belonged together as notes.

The closing track to “Future Teenage Cave Artists,” titled “I Call on Thee,” an almost purely piano instrumental, intones the band, now almost three decades into their career, calling back to who they once were, and still are. I will never consider Deerhoof an immovable monument in the world of indie rock, because I consider them to be the most fluid and one of the most difficult to define bands out there. The world might not care about Deerhoof, and Deerhoof might not care about the world, but somewhere in between that disregard for mutual approval Deerhoof acknowledged they didn’t need a place in the world to still be making quirky music.