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After seven albums' worth of gleeful pandemonium, Deerhoof calm things down a bit with The Runners Four, a collection of songs that are even more restrained than Milk Man and the Green Cosmos EP.
The Runners Four is still a far cry from typical indie rock; in fact, it sounds more like one of Deerhoof's older albums played at half-speed than anything else.
Most importantly, the joyful creativity that radiates from all of the band's other work is here in spades, too: it's hard not to smile at "Twin Killers"' zigzagging riffs or "Scream Team"'s giddy, girl-boy vocals.
[A]s The Runners Four unfolds, it gets progressively louder and more overtly playful, with "Spirit Ditties of No Tone," "Lightning Rod, Run," and "O'Malley, Former Underdog" providing some of the album's most irresistible moments.
By the time "You're Our Two" and "Rrrrrrright" close out the album, Deerhoof are back to the sugar-buzzing rock of their early days. In between these extremes are the pretty pop of "Running Thoughts" and noisy, experimental cuts such as "Midnight Bicycle Mystery" and "Bone-Dry," which recalls the more elliptical moments of Deerhoof offshoot Curtains.
While it's not as clearly conceptual as Milk Man was, The Runners Four also seems to tell an extended, if fractured, story involving murderous twin beauties, spies, pirates, and smugglers.
There's a lot to look and listen for in The Runners Four; it's Deerhoof's longest, most eclectic work yet, and more proof that the band can expand its sound without losing what makes it special.
-- Heather Phares, All Music Guide (4 stars)
Release Date: Oct 11, 2005