Deerhoof, "Deerhoof vs. Evil"
Deerhoof's 10th full-length may be its first away from longtime label Kill Rock Stars, but the recent jump to Polyvinyl Records doesn't signal a sea change for the veteran art-rock group's formula. If anything, "Deerhoof vs. Evil" feels like an instant continuation in sound to 2008's underwhelming "Offend Maggie," although the band's controlled guitar chaos and frontwoman Satomi Matsuzaki's precious warbling are abetted by stronger songwriting that offers a tongue-in-cheek reaction to wartime. "Wind up your cameras . . . round up your generals," Matsuzaki shrugs after hearing about an impending atomic explosion on the song "The Merry Barracks," while on "Secret Mobilization," she sings, "My battle cry/Stand by, stand by." The savvy arrangements, like the hand clap-driven melody of "I Did Crimes for You" and shape-shifting pop of "Hey I Can," continue to soften Deerhoof's rougher edges since their abstract early albums "Reveille" (2002) and "Apple O'" (2003). "Deerhoof vs. Evil" is more tentative than the group's best work, but its consistently dazzling musicianship carries the band as it explores different themes on a new label.