Even though their songs are almost always between two and three minutes, Deerhoof goes for epic on "The Runners Four," collecting twenty songs and squeezing them into a package that runs just under an hour (their last two albums combined isn't much longer than that). It allows for greater range of freedom and more experiments...and a few failures. This is a band that had always been an acquired taste, but forcing us to acquire even newer tastes? At least the group acknowledges its limitations and then says forget it, let's go for it anyway. Brave, and sometimes rewarding.
Deerhoof is better served in smaller doses than larger ones, even after they settled down a bit from their earlier, more hectic days. Like a lot of long tracklist albums (They Might Be Giant's "Flood," more than one Beastie Boys record, countless punk albums, etc.) the band runs out of steam before the end--but instead of regurgitating more of the same, they keep throwing everything they've got at us and hoping it sticks. For the first eleven to thriteen tracks, there's rarely a misstep (opener "Chatterboxes" is merely okay, "Odyssey" is rather turgid), but after that, it's pretty uneven. Maybe it's too exhausting; even for a pop band, Deerhoof can be pretty intense (check out the sweaty and squealing "Scream Team" and the noisy squalor of "Midnight Bicylce Mystery"). But three-fourths of a great album is what we've come to expect from this band, and the individual moments on this one shine brighter than almost anything on their last two.
Best cuts: "Twin Killers," "Vivid Cheek Love Song," "Running Thoughts," "Spirit Ditties of No Tone," "O'Malley, Former Underdog," "Scream Team," "Siriustar," "Midnight Bicycle Mystery," "Wrong Time Capsule," "You Can See," "Rrrrrright," "Spy on You," "Lightning Rod, Run," "After Me the Deluge"