On La Isla Bonita, Deerhoof use their frenzied but polished noise rock to cope with the torpid frustration of the chaotic world around them. La Isla Bonita marks the San Francisco band’s 13th full-length in a 20-year career, and here they’re at their sharpest and most ambitious. Ballad “Mirror Monster” creates a vast landscape of quivering guitars, muted drums and dreamy vocals; the harsh lead single “Exit Only” bobs with punk fury and a hook that never flags.
Many of the songs are overtly political. “Paradise Girls” celebrates “girls who are smart,” “girls who play the bass guitar” and “girls who will test,” with cowbell, jagged guitars and a bass line that goes for the gut. “Black Pitch,” wherein Satomi Matsuzaki sings, “We neither had it all nor shall we/ We are just fine without your promises,” feels like a response to promises of the American dream. And in “Exit Only,” Matsuzaki chants, “You enter U.S.A./ Welcome to speech of freedom/ Thank you for coming/ Get out now.”
Deerhoof remains too abstract a band to offer linear political commentary. The music on La Isla Bonita sounds wild, exploratory and a little angry. These elements create a record that’s equal parts steady and unruly, celebrating the freedom in asking questions and finding our own answers.