Deerhoof
Offend Maggie
Kill Rock Stars

3.5/5 Stars

Indie iconoclasts Deerhoof made waves last year with the equally poppy and experimental Friend Opportunity. Employing a heightened pop sensibility and a newfound discipline, the band crafted the album that became arguably their career zenith. But rather than delivering another opus, Deerhoof decided to scale things back on their latest release. Offend Maggie is less accessible, expansive and ambitious than its predecessor, and the album misses the knockout dynamism of Friend, often feeling like a collection of b-sides and singles. The good news is that the disc is still full of exuberance, emotion and eclecticism.

“Chandelier Searchlight” strikes a nice compromise between the diverse moods on Offend Maggie. While the verses have the rollicking jazz cadence and patchwork feel of Tago Mago-era Can, the chorus’s delicate and lilting melody is closer to Simon and Garfunkel (or it could just be the reprise of “lie, lie, lie, lie, lie”). Throughout the song, the shrill guitar takes turns with harmony, counterpoint and melodic answers to the vocals. In spite of these accessible elements, the slippery song structure splits the bridge into at least three separate parts, making for a series of confounding but pleasing left turns.

“Family of Others” is an oddity as far as Deerhoof goes: It’s an achingly beautiful pop piece propelled by Pet Sounds-inspired male vocal harmonies and backed by acoustic guitars. Speeding up, the song travels into an auditory idyll, warm chords animating the imagery of a peaceful forest. Aesthetically, “Family of Others” is a fish out of water on this album and emerges as its centerpiece. It’s a joy to hear this folksy and subdued side of the band.

The album closer “Jagged Fruit” is another beast altogether, delving into the troubled subconscious of Offend Maggie. It offers a glimpse of a truly haunted Deerhoof. The chord progression drips with anguish, and frontwoman Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocal performance sounds wounded and afraid. Suddenly, thunderous vultures of guitar distortion terrorize the somber verse. The band flirts with black metal here. Meanwhile, the drums rejoin with complex bass and snare fills. Ending on the jagged edge of a note, the album is brought to a screeching halt. Deerhoof’s body of work is famously enigmatic, marrying avant-garde tendencies with a sense of childish innocence and discovery. This ending leaves us with more questions than answers to that riddle.

In a way, Offend Maggie has it all: rockers like “The Tears of Music and Love” and “My Purple Post”; a loopy childlike rant in “Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back”; and more somber and complex pieces like “Numina O.” Compared to earlier works, the biggest changes seem to be a greater focus on guitar presence and an earnest descent into darker emotional realms. Offend Maggie is another incredibly solid entry in the Deerhoof catalogue, and reveals new thematic and musical territory for the band to explore.

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