US - California - Full Moon 149 - 11/13/08
Kill Rock Stars
The thing I find most compelling about Deerhoof is that no matter how much I listen to their albums - and I listen to all their albums from Reveille onwards a hell of a lot - I still have no clear idea of what they're on about or quite why I love them so much. To the casual listener who has had their curiosity piqued by scores of rave reviews, Deerhoof may seem underwhelming or even irritating - garage-rock guitars, frenetic drums, and a female Japanese vocalist who sings about pandas, flowers and dogs, sometimes in Japanese. For me, it's their absolute singularity that means they score gold every time.
No matter which
direction their songs go in, they always sound like Deerhoof, which is a truly wonderful thing.
So, Offend Maggie. What does it mean? I have no idea! But is it good? Hell yeah. I was already in love with this album after seeing the video of the band playing stunning opening track "The Tears and Music of Love" live in Tokyo. As my friend Simon wisely said, "It all works but it really shouldn't. It's like they've chopped up Stones riffs, thrown them up in the air and then glued them back together where they landed." I'm sure Greg Saunier, an avid Stones fan, would be delighted to hear that!
Then the video for "Get Born" was released. It's probably one of my favourite videos of recent memory - the band just goofing around, barefoot and neckerchiefed, miming to the track in a colourful studio. I've watched it a dozen times it's so joyous. And the song's a bloody masterpiece too, opening with a gorgeous lilting intro, squirming through its wiry two-guitar riff, then bursting into eyes-wide technicolour for Satomi's sing-song verses. Spine-tinglingly good, and a perfect example of the sophistication of Deerhoof's songwriting.
The rest of the album spans the full range of their peerless craft, from brooding, angular stompers ("Eaguru Guru") through swinging almost-funk ("Snoopy
Waves") to dayglo novelty pop ("Basketball Get Your Groove Back"). Their compositional skills are typically tight yet astonishingly fluid throughout, and I can imagine many of these songs working beautifully as part of their continually transforming jigsaw of a live set - which consistently draws from their entire discography - particularly "My Purple Past", which is essentially the darker cousin of "Tears and Music", and the awesome finale "Jagged Fruit", which brings a lump to my throat as Satomi intones plaintively amid a storm of dissonant guitars.
If there's anything to distinguish Offend Maggie from preceding albums it's the dominance of tangled, luminous guitar tone, partly thanks to wonderful new axeman Ed Rodriguez. John Dieterich is one of my favourite guitarists, so to have him accompanied by Ed's equally brilliant guitar lines is a noodler's wet dream. Imagine the twin-guitar garage rock of The Runners Four mixed with the avant-pop virtuosity of Friend Opportunity and you're nearly there.
I don't know how they do it, but for as long as they keep doing it, I'll be buying Deerhoof albums and seeing them live.
They're one of the best bands in the world right now, no question, and this is yet another essential album to add to their stellar discography.
Copyright © 2008 Tim Clarke