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The Evens: Ian Mackaye’s Triumphant Return

Posted by May 26th, 2005 No Comments »

The Evens – The Evens
Dischord Records (2005)
By Justin Vela

Punk meets folk meets rock to equal hopelessly catchy, poetic, jiving, music – that’s how I’d describe The Evens self-titled debut album. The record is raw-sounding and a relief in this age of heavily produced, heavily mastered, plastic-sounding music. This music, it’s perfect worm-and-jiggle-your-legs-and-dance-like-you-don’t-care music. This band? It’s the perfect band. Perfect syncopation. Perfect harmonies. A partnership most musicians only dream of. “So who the hell are these people?” you might ask. Well, it’s a two-piece, a very talented duo. Amy Farina (The Warmers) behind the drums and Ian Mackaye on baritone guitar.

After listening to this mellow album some people might jump to the poorly thought-out conclusion Ian Mackaye is getting old, losing his fire and going soft. These people are fools. This album is anything but soft, and the next person who describes it as such in a condescending manner should have firecrackers tied to their ass and launched into space on a used Russian Rocket.

While I would be going too far if I called this album a masterpiece – and the recording does seem more like a collection of songs than an actual fluid “album” – each of the songs is incredible and exactly what you’d expect from Ian Mackaye: direct, pointed statements. They protest. They celebrate. They are outraged. They love. Each song is a small revolution that packs a stinging whip that leaves blood across your chest, bruises across your head and hope in your heart.

Ian and Amy’s voices join together, Ian’s is deeper, Amy’s higher, perfectly complimenting and playing off each other. The album gives the impression the two of them picked up instruments on a slow day and started jamming without any real intention of starting a band.

Of course this is Ian Mackaye we’re talking about. The man seems to churn out new bands every decade or so, each one incredible, shockingly uncliched, and amazingly influential. The lyrics are highly visual – they have a journal-entry quality to them – and seem to follow the music like water following the banks of a river. Amy’s simple, precise drumming gives the songs a solid foundation for Ian’s guitar to do twisting, hopping rifts and rhythms. The songs are catchy and seem to come at you from a distance, even if you will. It’s also a very live-sounding recording. You can almost see them together in the studio, hunched over their instruments, sweating and strumming the guitar and beating the drums. It is a beautiful image.

The high points of this album are “On the Face of It,” which is as direct a political statement as a song can be and also shows off Mackaye’s mastery of the baritone guitar. You’ve also got “Blessed But not Lucky” which is half love sonnet and half beautiful reminder of the power of amazement that seems to leave you in some kind of fluid ecstasy. Then there’s “If It’s Water.” You ever think you’d hear Ian Mackaye singing “I’m alive, you’re alive, we make warmth when we desire?” Well, he does. This song is one of the best on the album. It’s got these lyrics that you don’t quite know what the fuck they’re talking about, but they can be applied to many different things and possess the existential ness of a Kafka story.

So, Ian Mackaye is back. And he’s back with another incredible band that makes you say, “HOLY SHIT.” Get out there and check them out. Right now.

Read Justin’s interview with Ian Mackaye.

Join the Benton Mackaye Trail Association.

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