The first thing you notice about the new Deerhoof record is the muscle in the guitars. The Tears And Music Of Love is an impressive way to open an album and after the first few bars of the duel guitar intro the new Deerhoof manifesto is firmly introduced. With the addition of a second guitar to the front line and an easing off in electronic production, the emphasis is on the live sound. To enhance this they have really stripped down the compositions allowing the twin guitars to stomp around in acres of space.
2007's fantastic Friend Opportunity signaled a veering towards accessibility for these art-rockers and its follow-up continues this trend. Offend Maggie successfully condenses the raw flair of this band and their frivolous tendency towards the unpredictable into near-perfect 3 minute pop songs but without compromising any of their avant-garde values. This is a trick bands have been looking to master forever and Deerhoof seem to do it effortlessly. Satomi Matsuzaki's sugar-sweet vocals are what has always kept this band well left of center and she doesn't disappoint here. She tends to sing in unison with the guitar melodies in a Malkmus kind of directional honesty, and it can really grate on songs like Basketball Get Your Groove Back, but her ability to quarry the purest of melodies out of such harsh musical surroundings is what makes their sound so addictive. She can deliver such cuddly and naive phrasing over jaunty percussion like on Fresh Born or make her distinctive voice float away on the intimate My Purple Past.
Deerhoof have always been masters of conjuring form out of formlessness and Matsuzaki's drifting style leads the way on songs like Eaguru Guru. Instead of the harsh changes of direction that have sometimes lurked around the corner on many of their past songs, the tendency here is to meander almost aimlessly into change with such ease and abandon that you really have to keep up or you'll find yourself in foreign territory quite often. Eaguru Guru strays way off the original course as the vocals drift by like tumbleweed, but those strays thinking that they're on to the next track are violently kept up to date as the whole thing is brought full circle with squealing guitars and calamitous, crashing drums. The effect is that the listener is repeatedly kicking themselves for thinking the band have lost their way.
This band never lose their way and yet again they have created a record that is built on chaos; for those willing to trust them the rewards are great. And though the pop structures that dominate this record make it much easier for the listener to trust than ever before, nothing has been lost. In fact, as a delivery device Offend Maggie is much more streamlined and is able to convey their love of the contrast, from form to formlessness, sweet to sour or soft to hard-as-hell, better than ever before.
13th Oct 2008 - Tumblr4