This isn't the first time Deerhoof has mashed together lysergic Byrds guitars, space rock, free noise, and twee asides -- but on The Runners Four, this Bay Area mainstay has ditched the erratic, "blank stare" edge of its previous albums and replaced it with an ecstatic common purpose. The guitars lock together on "Running Thoughts" with skull-squeezing force, then drift and waltz over an accordion on "After Me the Deluge"; and the band leaps from crunching garage on "Wrong Time Capsule" to the jittery Stereolab samba of "Spirit Ditties of No Tone" with eye-popping intensity. Even the addition of so-so male vocals that only an indie rocker's mom could love doesn't drag down the album; Satomi Matsuzaki's airy coo still holds court, and it's never sounded better. A visceral joy blows through this record and unites all of its splattered ideas: Deerhoof has been reborn as the happiest schizo band in indiedom.
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