...On Milk Man, Deerhoof harness all they've learned from their previous experiments, and written what may be their first truly conventional songs. Here, they've focused their maniacal energy into seriously dense and carefully considered songwriting; even the cleaner and deeper production betrays Deerhoof's commitment to letting the songs speak for themselves, and to keeping individual parts as precise and undistracting as possible. Greg Saunier's drumming is the most restrained I've ever heard it, while Chris Cohen and John Dieterich-- who are of such one (brilliant) mind that in concert they can play in perfect tandem without ever looking at each other-- find themselves more concerned with static harmonies and more dominant of their precious miasmatic outbursts. Satomi Matsuzaki, meanwhile, has improved considerably as a singer, and is now capable of delivering remarkably complex vocal melodies. And with more developed vocal melodies comes Deerhoof's first crack at meaningful lyrics: Over the course of this record's 11 tracks, Satomi narrates a coherent (if somewhat disturbing) story about a milk man who kidnaps children and hides them in the clouds.
So is this Deerhoof's best? Is Milk Man, as SPIN remarked, ''a perfect album?'' It isn't, unfortunately, but the album plays host to what are easily some of Deerhoof's best songs, conventional or otherwise. Four-minute opener ''Milk Man'' -- longer than nearly every other song Deerhoof has recorded-- is as much a statement of the album's overall tenor as it is of the band's change of pace: Unaccompanied guitar lines interact confidently, building sparse but lush harmonies that together function as the song's recurring theme. The keyboard, which was noticeably absent from Apple O', returns here with remarkable subtlety, a respondent to Satomi's pristine melody. The internal interactions within the song-- as opposed to the external reactions of the band members-- are the focal point of ''Milk Man'', possibly Deerhoof's finest moment...
Milk Man is certainly not some point of no return for Deerhoof-- they certainly aren't locked into writing in this more conventional style, just as they weren't locked in after the similarly song-oriented Holdypaws. The band is too committed to growing as musicians and writing better songs not to revisit the rambunctious Reveille and Apple O' woodsheds for inspiration. Milk Man not only testifies to how potent those sessions proved, but also to how successfully the band can step back and craft those rabid ideas into impressive songs without devitalizing them. --Pitchfork
Deerhoof follows Apple O', an album that won the group ever-growing critical and popular acclaim, with Milk Man, an album even more conceptual and song-oriented than its predecessor. Inspired by the spooky yet adorable work of illustrator Ken Kagami -- whose art graces the album's cover and liner notes -- Milk Man tells the tale of a masked, pied piper-like being who lures children into his dreamland and then traps them there. The vision and the visuals surrounding the album are a perfect fit with Deerhoof's music, and, perhaps befitting Milk Man's status as a concept album, this time around the band incorporates more prog rock-like keyboards and other electronics into its sound. The pretty ballad ''Dream Wanderer's Tune,'' with its lyrics about kings in castles in the sky and its playfully elaborate keyboards, exemplifies Deerhoof's move to more intricate, contemplative music. Since the album is relatively restrained, it's not quite as buoyant as Apple O' or Reveille, and it lacks a little bit of the delirious overload of Deerhoof's earliest work, but that doesn't mean that it's less distinctive. ''Desapareceré'' is one of Milk Man's best and most unique tracks, mixing clicking and shuffling electronic drums with sugary synths and Spanish lyrics into a very different take on electronic pop; ''Dog on the Sidewalk'' consists mostly of bubbling and fizzing electronics and Satomi Matsuzaki's deceptively simple vocals. Milk Man does have its fair share of noise, particularly on the instrumentals ''Rainbow Silhouette of the Milky Rain'' and ''That Big Orange Sun Run Over Speed Light,'' as well as on ''Song of Sorn,'' which starts out as a burst of noise and ends up oddly, but distinctly, poppy. This poppiness is responsible for many of Milk Man's best moments, including the sunny title track and ''Milking'' -- which are among the most straightforwardly melodic songs Deerhoof have ever written -- as well as the sweet final track, ''New Sneakers,'' which does indeed capture the childlike glee of new shoes in lyrics like ''Skipping all over with these shoes/Oh speed.'' Milk Man isn't all sweetness and light, though: Greg Saunier's lumbering drumming adds an extra edge to the monster party that is ''Giga Dance''; ''C'''s brittle vocal melody is mirrored by guitars that are pretty at first but then turn loud and thrashy. But even in its louder moments, Milk Man is a surprisingly subtle album, and one that takes Deerhoof's music in quietly exciting new directions. --All Music Guide