San Fran art band tells tall milk tales

“Milkman” is the latest in a string of brilliant albums from San Francisco-based art rockers Deerhoof, and unbelievably might be their finest work yet. It is their most ambitiously orchestrated, doggedly unconventional and accessible album to date. It even got a mention in Rolling Stone, a dubious honor to be sure, but nonetheless indicates some rise in profile.

The opening track is remarkable in its length: almost four and a half minutes. Deerhoof traditionally sticks to shorter songs, using just enough space to cram all their ideas and no more, but like the other slightly longer songs on “Milkman,” the eponymous opening track, “Milk Man” doesn’t wear out its welcome. The song sets the stage for the premise of the album: a pied-piper fable about some kind of milk-powered superhero who abducts children and takes them to a dreamland.

“Giga Dance” follows with an organ and fuzz-guitar march that sounds like the soundtrack to some 1940s Walt Disney animated adaptation of “Dante’s Inferno.” As unnerving as the implications this track has towards the storyline of the kidnapping Milkman, the rest of the album is fairly lighthearted.

The instrumental track “Rainbow Silhouette of the Milky Rain” is so engaging that the absence of singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki’s lovely voice barely registers. Highlighting Deerhoof’s spectacular drumming and twin guitar virtuosity, the track plays around with their trademark polyrhythmic herky-jerkiness before easing into a junkyard percussion breakdown that strongly evokes their Killrockstars labelmates, Xiu Xiu.

These and other bits of ear candy reveal “Milkman” as an experimental epic that succeeds where so much other experimental music fails: it’s actually fun to listen to.