This new iTunes-only live EP by Deerhoof is, as might be expected, an object of intense interest for fans, but not much more. The band execute the songs — mostly tracks off of their latest, Offend Maggie — with the precise spasticity that they are known by, but with one major exception: “Makko Shobu.” This song — originally a Friend Opportunity extra (only available on iTunes, hmm) and then used on the soundtrack for the Mandy Moore vehicle Dedication — seems to be about sperm whales in love. The band plays up the song’s tender, almost loungy side by backing Satomi Matsuzaki’s wistful vocals (in Japanese) with a single grand piano. A delicate and simple song already, the barebones instrumentation only adds to the song’s (nearly oxymoronic) cute strangeness.
It’s a weird experience to hear Deerhoof going “unplugged” in that moment, but it is not as much of a contrast as you would think. Songs like “Buck and Judy” (off Offend Maggie) balance brash guitar noise with exquisite (yes, I said “exquisite”) stillness: skip to around 2:09 in this recording to hear what I mean. Here, the live setting actually adds to the intensity of the change from bang-bang drums and guitar swell to wind-up clock tinkles.
The band is, technically, at the top of its game, and because of that, most of the joy of this EP is in the details: little fillips here and there, recalibrated timbres, Greg Saunier’s ever-changing and expressive beats. Still, I can’t help but encourage the curious reader to hear them live (in real life) for a more energetic display of their powers.