Fever 121614 was recorded in Tokyo, Japan on 16 December 2014 as part of Deerhoof’s tour of their 2014 album La Isla Bonita. It’s the fourth live album put out by the San Francisco four-piece, with the free download 99% Upset Feeling released in 2011. However, Fever 121614 is the first time they’ve physically released a live album taken from one single show. It’s perhaps surprising that’s it’s taken them two decades to put out a proper live album, which also comes with a DVD of the performance, but it’s been well worth the wait.
Critically praised for much of their career, which includes 13 studio albums, Deerhoof have gained a reputation as one of the most consistent and fun live bands on the independent music scene. Their poppy, ADD-like experimental noise-rock with a poppy twist isn’t to everyone’s liking, but their uniqueness is undeniable. The wild free-jazz style of drummer Greg Saunier, the jerky riffs and off-kilter playing style of guitar combination John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez, and the sweet, child-like vocals of bassist Satomi Matsuzaki come together to create a chaotic and beautiful whole like no other act out there.
Deerhoof are the sort of band that are at their best in a live setting, and that’s exactly what you encountered for much of Fever 121614, which does a great job of capturing their energy and group dynamics. They can sound a little erratic on first listen, particularly on their earlier work, but it’s always been very much a controlled chaos, held together by intelligent songwriting and musicianship, as well as a real love for what they do. The way they like to play was summed up perfectly by Matsuzaki in an interview with VICE’s Noisey last year when she said: “Amps sound the best right before smoke comes out.”
As Fever 121614 was recorded during their La Isla Bonita tour, the setlist naturally focusses more on that album than any others, along with their more recent albums Breakup Song and Deerhoof vs. Evil. However, it also includes some material going back as far as 2003’s Apple O’, around the time when critics started paying more attention to their music. Once the crunching, energetic riffs of “Exit Only” kick in there’s very little looking back, with each song coming thick and fast. If there’s a stand-out moment of the near 40-minute set (43-minutes with the two bonus tracks), it has to be “We Do Parties”, with great guitar interplay between Dieterich and Rodriguez is an example of Deerhoof at their very best.
Fever 121614 will likely be loved by a majority of the Deerhoof fans, but it also serves as an excellent introduction to the band for anyone who may not have dabbled in their wonderful world before. It isn’t the live greatest hits album that some fans may have hoped for, but it’s the next best thing.
Essential Tracks: Exit Only; We Do Parties; Dummy Discards a Heart; Twin Killers; There’s That Grin
Length: 37:45 (43:31 with bonus tracks)
Released: 27 November 2015
Genres: Experimental Rock; Noise-Pop