Album of the Day: Deerhoof

Deerhoof - Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars, 2008)

Sorry to molest you with music once again on what is ostensibly a cinema blog, but I can’t control myself when it comes to Deerhoof. Their new album Offend Maggie is out on Monday in the UK, but I was lucky enough to receive my pre-ordered CD and LP copies in the post today. I’m on my second listen already, and these are my barely-formed thoughts on the matter.

Firstly, I should say that I’m exactly the sort of person who would love Deerhoof. And I do love them. I love their restless nature, the way they mix chaos and sweetness, the way they make occasionally awkward ideas feel like they belong – like the hyperactive little brother you can’t imagine life without. Satomi Matsuzaki’s distinctive voice is the source of much of Deerhoof’s sweetness, singing cuddly melodies in a blend of English and her native Japanese. She makes me want to hug something. Preferably her. Greg Saunier apparently plays drums by trying to forget that he knows how to play them. That’s not some kind of witty remark, he genuinely does that! The resultant sound is often loose and hectic, but somehow he always pulls it back from the brink of disaster. With each album they seem to get progressively more accessible, but not in a way that disappoints muso snobs. They always have and always will sound like themselves, no matter what they turn their hooves to.

Their previous album was mostly rather frantic, mixing their usual rock band setup with electronic glitches and bombastic keyboards. If Friend Opportunity was a trip to the city on a hot summer’s day, then Offend Maggie is a stroll in the park in the middle of autumn. You’re wrapped up warm in your favourite coat, crunching the fallen leaves beneath your feet. But the sun comes out of hiding occasionally, and the traffic can still be heard in the distance… I’ve taken this metaphor too far, I’m starting to sound like fucking Pitchfork!

What I’m trying to say is; Offend Maggie sounds decidedly like “real” music. It neatly combines the guitar-heavy sound of their sprawling 2005 album The Runners Four, with the direct and concise structures of Friend Opportunity. This makes for an album with an easy access point, and one that doesn’t outstay its welcome. The production leaves a little more headroom than previous albums too, meaning the songs are housed in a little studio ambience rather than just thrashing your speakers.

On CD the album bursts into life with “The Tears and Music of Love”, a typical Deerhoof stomp with chunky guitar chords, played in angular jerking bursts and overlayed with Satomi’s adorable squeak. The LP version begins on the title track instead, with an unexpectedly folksy acoustic guitar riff which is then joined by gently tumbling drums and some pretty vocal harmonies.

Other highlights include:

“Jagged Fruit” – A melancholy anthem seemingly about mood swings. It’s one of the most overtly emotional pieces I’ve ever heard from Deerhoof. The guitars alternate between dissonant swirling patterns, minor-key arpeggios and quiet stop/start rhythms. Meanwhile Satomi gently soars over it all, in a style reminiscent of “Matchbook Seeks Maniac”.

“Fresh Born” – After a chiming intro, it becomes a surprisingly groovy piece that I can imagine being the theme to Deerhoof’s own twisted version of Sesame Street. Actually, Deerhoof do have a certain Muppet quality about them. Or is that just me?

“Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back” – A bouncy little ditty about dribbling basketballs and jumping like a bunny. Deerhoof at their most delightfully cheerful.

Anyway in conclusion, I am thoroughly delighted with the latest Deerhoof album. Long may they reign, dear. Pardon the pun.

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