Fri Aug 16
The new record by New York synth-rock trio Enon, titled High Society, ends up being heavier on the synths than the rock. It's interesting, though, because there's a fight between the two. Every alternate song sounds like straightforward, heard-it-before '80s-'90s rock music (at certain points in the vein of Thin Lizzy and/or, um, Buffalo Tom), while the rest is a very creative, buzzing foray into electronic production and the electrically-charged friction between the instruments of yesterday (guitar), today (keyboards) and tomorrow (processors). Weird cowbells and Damn Yankees-style, middle-America rock guitar spar with glitchy keyboard sounds for their continued relevance in rock history. Great pop hooks wrestle with rock 'n' roll guitar solos for album time--Enon put the rock stuff at the beginning of the record, which gave me the impression, at first, that High Society was derivative, if not uninspired. But it's not--it's just a very intelligent, semi-deliberate progression from heartland-type rock, further into the popping choruses of keyboards, house-y beats, and trebly computer sighs. Bringing the past into the future, so to speak.
In this sense, it is totally zeitgeistical, cementing its postmodernism with a loosely conceptual theme: the redundancy of the rat race, the banality of materialism, the soullessness of decadence. In "Leave it to Rust," Schmersal indicts the machinations of business, and blindly obedient nine-to-fivers: "Let us blow your trumpets so we can swear that it's not our fault." High Society is so very now and so very '80s which, in turn, is so very now. Like looking into a mirror behind a mirror.
I interviewed Enon's charismatic singer/guitarist, John Schmersal, ex of Brainiac, and the only remaining original member. (Skeleton Key's Rick Lee and Steve Calhoun were replaced by Matt Schulz and Toko Yasuda early last year.) However, as if to solidify the idea of technology's fractured road, my fucking tape recorder (manufactured in the early '00s) busted and didn't actually record anything he said. I do know we talked about High Society being loosely based around a theme, although it wasn't pre-planned, and that someday Schmersal would like to record an album arranged on two separate records, to be played simultaneously (a la Flaming Lips' Zaireeka). We discussed how High Society was actually recorded in early 2001, but wasn't released until this spring, and how it was difficult to keep it from getting loose on the internet. (In the interim, the band released four seven-inch records and a handmade instrumental CD.) We talked about the importance of the live show (Enon is notorious for their unbelievably entertaining, tight performances). Schmersal wondered why there aren't more war protest songs being made, and we discussed Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen's takes on 9/11 and the state of our country. I am sure we even laughed gaily, for god's sakes. But it's all lost to technology's foibles.
Technology works perfectly with Enon, though--they sound like they rewired the Commodore 64 through their amps, Mad Max-style, with the high-wattage friction between synths and guitar--and none of it is ironic. High Society is fresh, and comes off '80s in the way that Bret Easton Ellis is pertinent to now--America is full of gross excess, everybody snorts rails of coke like candy, and it seems like the apocalypse is just around the corner. So, you should go see their awesome live show, 'cause even though my technology failed me, theirs won't fail you.