Album Cover
Milk Man
Kill Rock Stars
March 09, 2004


Never before, I think, has cover art so accurately described an album. The disconcerting cover of Milk Man, Deerhoof's seventh full-length release in the band's now eight-year lifespan, depicts a cartoony androgynous creature in a strange mask, posing lightheartedly as it is stabbed with fruit. So, to imagine this album, imagine a more consistent Apple O', with more distortion and less folksy interludes, or, if you've never heard Deerhoof before, imagine the aural version of that image. The playful happy-go-luckiness of the melodies and the strange pose; the adorable and unsettling vocals and fruit-stabbings; the vague sense of beautiful evil that covers the music and the creature's smiling mask. It's uncanny, it is.

Stylistically, Milk Man is not much of a change from the avant-bubblegum of Apple O' or Reveille, apart from an increase in distortion and a decrease in filler, the former of which is introduced immediately - "Milk Man" starts out with jarring power chords and drum fills, an unexpected blast of noise that gets your attention from the very beginning. Apple O' employed a similar technique with "Dummy Discards a Heart", but Milk Man deserves this demanded attention more. The high points are as high as they ever were, and the low points are significantly higher than they ever were.

"Milk Man" contains the most legible lyrics of the album, and their sentiment sets a tone for the album that matches very well with the Deerhoof sound; that is, abducting children. "Come closer / How beautiful this place is," singer Satomi Matsuzaki croons in impossibly high pitches that are hard not to imagine coming from the cover art being. "Boys and girls, be mine / I'll take you to my dream land". I could make insipid Michael Jackson references but I won't because that is beneath me.

Other lyrics have little to do with this theme, or any theme. In "Dog on the Sidewalk", Matsuzaki chirps, "Dog on the sidewalk / Dog on the sidewalk / Dog on the sidewalk / I saw, I saw." From there, the song deteriorates into a muddle of electronic blips that cuts off just before the aimlessness gets tiresome, and a quick jump to "C" puts us back on track. "Milking" is a fun and upbeat tune about children trapped in a burning building: "There is a gasoline fire / And all the kids are trapped in there," effervesces Satomi with an infectious sense of cool, detached glee.

The album's lyrics are pretty unintelligible for the most part, and what strange and disturbing snippets you can make out add to the impact of even the most unintelligible vocals - you don't know what she's singing about, but it must be something weird. The weirdness that you assume is there adds much to the overpowering happiness, and, when all is said and done, Milk Man leaves an unidentifiable and endlessly satisfying mark on you. Even at their lowest points, Deerhoof are one of the most consistently entertaining groups in operation nowadays. Milk Man sees them at their most consistently entertaining, but also their most refined; their novelty has taken a far back seat to their overwhelming pleasantness and musical talent.

Milk Man occupies a strange world, one that rains Skittles that sting when they fall on you but people dance in them anyway because they taste so good and everyone sings to the sun and wears magic shoes and also they use words like "rumpus" and "bippy" in everyday conversation. It is a strange and wonderful and vitamin-enriched world, kid-tested and mother-approved, where rock and roll will never die.

Noah Jackson

Track List

  1. Milk Man
  2. Giga Dance
  3. Desapareceré
  4. Rainbow Silhouette of the Milky Rain
  5. Dog on the Sidewalk
  6. C
  7. Milking
  8. Dream Wanderer's Tune
  9. Song of Sorn
  10. That Big Orange Sun Run Over Speed Light
  11. New Sneakers