Offend Maggie with Insults

Deerhoof
Offend Maggie
Kill Rock Stars, 2008

Deerhoof have constructed the perfect record-selling catch-22. Preceding the release of Offend Maggie, the San Francisco quartet invited the musically literate to cover their song “Fresh Born” before anyone had even heard it. In return, they hoped to glean a “platonic, abstract, ideal version” of the song from fans in a sort of aleatory redistribution of creativity.

The intentional leak of the sheet music before the release of Offend Maggie would have come off as an unflattering gimmick if any other band had tried pulling it off. I’m thinking specifically of Franz Ferdinand’s attempts at initiating participation when they set up a drum kit and computer with Pro Tools in London’s Hauser and Wirth Gallery last winter. One by one, good and some very very bad drummers recorded themselves drumming along to an as-of-then unrecorded and unchained version of “Ulysses.” With this new album’s release, I have my doubts anyone will even notice themselves tapping away behind Alex Kapranos, which is why the fully-credited, instant- gratification method of Deerhoof (you just upload your version) wins hands down.

Deerhoof have managed to turn a publicity stunt into a genuine, worthwhile experiment that has actually incited audience participation. But this isn’t any call-and-response rabble-rousing, or condescending pay-what-you-want initiative, this is a DIY masterstroke on the part of Deerhoof that hints of hardcore, self- taught innovation rather than shameless ear-grabbery. Check out “lvrgrl”‘s weird, small-voiced version or “Action”‘s charmingly whistled cover on the website.

I could rail on about the album itself but I’d inevitably end up waxing jack-assical about how Offend Maggie shakes off the “Stravinskian harmonies” of earlier records for a manic and exciting Stockhausen discord. So I think I’ll just save that for the real critics and go record my own version of “Fresh Born” instead.

Sophia Al-Maria

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