Deerhoof Offend Maggie(Kill Rock Stars) Buy it from Insound
Buck and Judy, third song from Deerhoof’s latest opus, Offend Maggie, has been pounding around my head for days. The trumpet-sounding riff that follows the song’s simplistic stomp-stomp-beat/stomp-stomp-beat, overtop the swirling keys and sporadic waves of sonic disarray just clings to the frontal lobe. The music itself speaks of colossal revelation or discovery, maybe a journey’s end or some other milestone or life event. Here the song merely questions the identity of a sweet fruit. I’m sure it’s less literal than that, but for this review, and for the sake of saving time and effort deciphering the typically abstract observations of singer, Satomi Matsuzaki, I’m going to do my best to keep it simple.
Following last year’s hyper-experimental and glossy Friend Opportunity, Offend Maggie is sort of return to the raw: a less effects-driven blast of guitar/drum coupling that’s hammered into a decent array of shapes and sizes. From the album’s first broken riff, which comes off like an inebriated variation of Free’s All Right Now, The Tears And Music Of Love acts as the album’s mission statement, establishing from the get go that this will be more of an avant-garage album.
With Deerhoof, they enjoy the distinction of being, in a word, “unique” amongst their peers. This uniqueness has awarded them the benefit of being the type of band that can away with writing a song as lightweight and goofy as Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back, while still maintaining their street cred, so to speak. It’s an admirable feat. This uniqueness also lets them make records like Offend Maggie: whereas it’s not necessarily showcasing an evolution of their sound, it still sounds like a record they wanted to make.
The fulltime addition of guitarist Ed Rodriguez probably setting a precedent, Offend Maggie takes full advantage of its extra guitarist, crafting pleasant Television-inspired string dialogue (Chandelier Searchlight), or slashing jagged tears through clouds of abrasive dissonance (Eaguru Guru). Deerhoof do seem to make attempts at being somewhat emotionally ambiguous, keeping themselves perpetually balanced between happy and sad. Something as jovial as Snoopy Waves, a song that finds joy in the dawn of an upcoming California weekend, is followed by the broken-up (though tonally upbeat) title track. Family Of Others, with its rather melancholy interpretation of Beach Boys’ harmonizing coupled with its fragmented and bleak opening, is pulled toward the silver lining with uplifting melodies and a relaxed acoustic jam. And Fresh Born, probably the album’s most schizophrenic track, begins like an outdoor picnic at a sun-drenched suburb and then erupts into the bass-heavy rock n’ roll version of a Hip-Hop jam.
But, Matsuzaki does give in to mood with the folky and ponderous, Don’t Get Born, and then sorrowful with My Purple Past, a fuzzy Townshend riff livening it up as much as possible.
This Is God Speaking, which almost sounds like an ode to Frank Zappa’s We’re Only In It For The Money, offers the album some spoken eccentricity before ending with the very organic Numina and chaotic closer, Jagged Fruit.
Despite the fact that Offend Maggie is, in some ways, a “nothing new” addition to Deerhoof’s canon, it’s also one of their best. Canceling out the bells and whistles of yore, Deerhoof excel at minimalism, relying solely on a “less is more” aesthetic and managing to maintain their distinctive brand of No Wave, sonic nuance. It’s possible that, at this point, an album like Offend Maggie almost seems expected of them. And, if you’re speaking in terms of quality, you’re absolutely right.