Deerhoof – Offend Maggie

Deerhoof – Offend Maggie

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I’ve fallen into the habit of airing my prejudices before I review anything, so let us not buck tradition. I can best explain my preconceived notion of Deerhoof with the following quote:

“Marsha, Marsha, MARSHA!”

Unlike poor Jan, I do not necessarily have to live in the shadow of Deerhoof, but I do feel they are all I hear about these days, the new indie-rock darlings, to the point where my most respected musician friends have taken pains to make sure my iTunes library stocks their entire discography.

Haven’t listened to it yet.

I should explain: there is fear in my heart. The people around me I most respect, in terms of their musical tastes, love Deerhoof, so correspondingly, the hype is mighty for me. I’m afraid of the Radiohead phenomena – a band that it seems everyone loves, yet one I merely find okay. Decent, in fact, but far from Gods. And so, I’m sure the Deerhoof masses will feel that the album was given to the wrong person, but I disagree; outside of the hype, I really have nothing to compare it to, and so perhaps I can give it a fair shake. So maybe it is fine for me to review it. That said, let’s get started.

I find the album weird, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Possibly, I’ve been jaded spending weeks at a time in clubs listening to ham-fisted attempts to be the next big thing via poor carbon copies of the last big thing, but it is rare that a band can surprise me these days. Deerhoof is so incredibly iconoclastic that they may just live up to Eli’s assessment (see the Slants review) that they are in fact, ‘timeless’. I interpret the word in the same way I use the term iconoclast- they may borrow liberally from punk, ’80s post-modern bubble gum phrasing, and the ’90s tendency to laud the bouncy, Asian punkette lead singer, but for whatever reason, when they fold these elements into the mix, the result is, to cop a cliché, more than the sum of its parts.

This is fine and good, but I’m not particularly drawn in until we start approaching the middle of the album. There is something about an omnipresent guitar line sculpted to act as an atmospheric backdrop rather than a cock-rock, look-at-me riff that appeals to some collection of synapses in an unreported lobe of my cerebrum

But on to the specifics. Perusing though my musings on each and every track will prove tedious, so let’s just highlight a few favorites.

“Snoopy Waves” smacks of 5style: dirty, happy guitar squeals over punctuated bass and Meters-esque funkiness, and I am okay with this. It is a nod to style, not a rip-off, a song best considered a tribute rather than a stolen notion. And it just sounds good. The title track, “Offend Maggie,” is where I am won over for good. The intro guitar line brings me straight back to the Michigan Renaissance Festival, images of jaunty lute players in spandex cast on the screen in the back of my skull. They dispel the picture immediately, slapping their peculiar brand of rock on top like an elephant dropped from a cliff, without coming off as pretentious or overly desperate to mix disparate elements.

I’m not sure how I feel about the Basketball song, but I don’t think they intended for me to think about it too hard. I’ll let you sort this out for your self. Let it just be said that it led to a midday nap featuring rabbits driving rubber bumper cars over the rolling hills of Watership Down. Enough said.

“My Purple Past” seals it for me. The grimy power chords that outline the melodic template of the song hook me immediately. With this track – and indeed for the duration of the album – they develop a dualistic approach to sculpting their melody lines, a characteristic shared with both Fugazi and French accordion music. It oscillates between the melancholy and hopeful, a winning combination that ranks with you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter-you-got-your-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate, after-breakup sex and the sweet-and-salty school of cuisine.

I could go on and on, but you get my point. I am completely enamored, wishing I had cottoned on to them earlier and petitioned for SSv for a ticket to their show this weekend. Guess I’m waiting until next year.


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