Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Lonely At The Top: A Few Words About The New Album From Escape-Ism (Ian Svenonius) On Merge Records

That fellow up there has had a busy year. Not only has his band, Chain and The Gang, released 2 records (reviewed by me here and here), but he's been on the road fronting a revived and revitalized Make-Up, as shown from my pic up there of their triumphant gig at D.C.'s Black Cat a few months ago. And now, just in time for all those year-end best-of-2017-lists, he's finally brought forth the debut full-length record from his Escape-ism solo outfit. The fittingly-titled Introduction To Escape-ism drops on Merge Records this Friday and it is, frankly, one of the strongest Svenonius-related projects in quite some time.

Now, I say that not to knock his work with other bands recently but, rather, to highlight just how impressive this new endeavor is. That's especially true when one considers that this is basically a one-man thing for Ian. As such, a listener can sense a palpable lo-fi despair creeping through numbers like "Walking In The Dark", even as others, like the superb "Lonely At The Top", deliver Fad Gadget-like levels of unease and paranoia exceptionally well. Similarly, "Rome Wasn't Burnt In A Day" is fuzzy bravado mixed with a little taste of rage at the establishment, especially now in these days of having a sociopath in the White House, while the sneer of "Almost No One (Can Have My Love)" casts a disproving eye at nearly the entire swath of the mainstream (and rightly so, one might add). The political is personal-rule applies to this former Dischord Records legend, especially on "They Took The Waves", the closet thing to a direct protest song this cat is likely to write in the 21st century. I don't mean to fault for Svenonius for not being more explicit but, instead, want to signify that this dude's skills run so deep that he can get a whole lot across without beating a listener over the head to make his points. Couching his screeds in music like this was a wise move as the message is more wonderfully insidious and subversive in spots. And for the selections that are not even halfway trying to make some larger points about society, the level of success achieved here is significant, with the claustrophobia of "I Don't Remember You" recalling any number of bands from the early days of Mute Records, while the catchy "Crime Wave Rock" manages to work in a Nuggets-worthy bit of garage snarl even if the only guy rocking out is Ian himself, and not a band of miscreants.

Quietly incendiary, the songs on Introduction To Escape-ism are some of the best compositions Ian Svenonius has offered up in years, and that's saying something considering his recent burst of creativity. Using a limited set of tools, and a simple palette of sonic colors, Svenonius has here delivered something bracing which remains largely tuneful. The guy may have been frontin' the revolution a few years ago with both Nation of Ulysses and The Make-Up but there are many ways to kick things off. If those bands' tunes were rabble-rousing anthems, these cuts here on Introduction To Escape-ism are whispered suggestions, the hint of an incitement to action purred in the ear. Heed the call, folks.

Introduction To Escape-ism drops on Merge Records on Friday.