Like a sloping gravel path, Deerhoof contradicts itself merely by existing. Alternating between grating noise and gentle melody, Offend Maggie is a happy album of sad music, where every single quirky contrast is meticulously micromanaged. Offend Maggie occasionally flies away with its own cleverness, but at its best moments, it creates a mood so powerful that it almost seems like a sentient creature.
Reading the lyrics for this album is so difficult that it makes me wonder whether singer and guitarist Satomi Matsuzaki grasps the concept of communication in the English language. However, she has the uncanny ability to make these indecipherable lyrics sound compelling and touching. Rather than evoking Kurt Cobain, her tinny mumbling and buzzsaw guitars evoke the soaring, ambient vocals of the Cocteau Twins. Deerhoof have the ability to rock, with bluesy drums and a bass-heavy sound that is sparse, intimate and energetic. But they’ve also used distortion and noise to carve something that feels massive. It’s as if Matsuzaki’s mouse-like squeaking is the weird cry of an alien baby. It’s helpless and futile, but I keep listening somehow.
Offend Maggie is a truly bizarre album, but somehow it has a freshness and confidence that makes it feel comfortable. Deerhoof’s music is simple and child-like at times, but there is a lot of disturbingly acute emotion here that elevates it from an laborious exercise in introspection to a rather beautiful piece of art. It seems clear that Deerhoof feels best with its head in the clouds, but at least they’re not so far up that the rest of us can’t breathe.