In the years since Fugazi’s decision to go on “indefinite hiatus”, Ian MacKaye could’ve done a number of things. For example, he could've taken his fine entrepreneurial skills and bought into the lucrative Washington-area real estate market.
But if thoughts of dollar signs were running through his bald head, Ian would’ve reunited Minor Threat and gone on tour with the Dead Kennedys (featuring whatever lame vocalist who’s filling in for Jello).
Those familiar with Mr. MacKaye’s philosophies know better than to make such trifling assumptions. Here’s a man who has never been known to rest on the laurels of previous musical achievements, no matter how grand or influential. After the breakup of Minor Threat, Ian re-emerged in the Revolution Summer of 1985 with the fiercely personal Embrace. Following their demise, Ian began working with Joe Lally and Rites of Spring alumni Guy Piccioto and Brendan Canty. As Fugazi, they challenged the repetitive and increasingly macho hardcore scene of the late 80s and early 1990s.
Now that they’re gone, Ian has reinvented himself once again with his latest musical endeavor, The Evens.
(Photograph courtesy of Jim Saah)
The Evens are Ian on baritone guitar and Amy Farina (ex-Warmers) on drums. I initially passed on the Evens because it seems like every other lame indie group is a duo. In fact, I didn’t even bother with their first release. In retrospect, this was a little unfair. I dunno, I guess I was bitter about the fact that Fugazi wasn’t coming back anytime soon.
Well, I’ve finally come to terms with it and have managed to procure a copy of their latest release “Get Evens.”
But before I begin, I’ve must get something off my chest:
I’m unhappy with Ian’s choice of guitar.
On “Get Evens,” Ian uses a Danelectro baritone guitar. I can tell, because I’ve played one before. And from my experience, Danelectros sound really good when used for single note playing, not strumming, which MacKaye does rather often. Even more maddening is the fact that he never alters his tone. No cool chorus or delay pedals, not even a dramatic change of the bass and treble settings. The result get is a dull and uninteresting tone. To be totally honest I would’ve recommended a Fender Bass VI à la the Beatles on the White Album.
Then again it’s the vocals and the overall arrangement, not minute sonic details, which are the selling point of this record.
I first realized that Ian could sing (not bark) when I heard the beautiful demo “I’m So Tired” on the soundtrack to the “Instrument” documentary. Fugazi’s last album, “The Argument”, was brimming with hints that the once drill sergeant-like MacKaye was moving in a quieter direction.
On “Get Evens,” Ian can sound quite angelic, particularly when he and Amy sing in unison. Now Ms Farina does have a lovely voice, I liked her drumming more. Her technique is breezy and features very some nice cymbal work. And much to my delight, she avoids Keith Moon style theatrics that would undermine the simplicity of the recording.
TRANSLATION: She is 10,000 times better than Meg White.
“How do people sleep amidst the slaughter/Why would they vote in the favor of their own defeat”
Overall it’s a very stripped down affair, which is ideal if you pay attention to the words. The verse in quotes, an excerpt of “Cut From The Cloth,” is indicative of the album’s lyrical mood. It’s simple and direct, without sounding sophomoric or tiresome. And believe me, that’s a rarity in a city where clichéd political overtones are omnipresent in every nook and cranny of the music scene.
“Get Evens” is undeniably a product of Washington DC 2006. It represents a capital city that’s showing signs of life after years of neglect and misery. On the flipside, it’s also a city suffering from gentrification, commercialization and the overwhelming influence of the federal government. Don’t be mistaken, though. This is not forty minutes of whinging put to music, but merely a series of observations on the national mentality since 9/11. It’s an intriguing portrait of the second half of the Bush era and will probably serve as a fascinating time capsule in 20 years’ time.
Cut from the Cloth, Everybody Knows, No Money,
The Evens at Dischord Records