When many “punk rock” bands spring from the underground to big labels, they often acquire momentary success by a lot of not-punk methods — exploiting current popular trends or reaping the benefits of the major label PR budget. I believe that if Fugazi had ever been swept into the mainstream music market, they, too, would have found themselves with a massive following. But unlike a lot of these flash-in-the-pan acts, they were sincere musicians who lacked definable image or pretense; their lyrics were smart and their music was addicting and memorable — from the bass lines to the choruses, Fugazi songs got in your head and they stayed.
Amy Farina (The Warmers) and Ian MacKaye (Fugazi) apply this same style of songwriting in their band The Evens, of which they are the sole two members (Amy on drums/vocals, Ian on baritone guitar/vocals). Their first album, self-titled and released in March 2005, was loaded with catchy, subtle, even kind of danceable tracks (“You Won’t Feel a Thing” and “On The Face of It”), somber, moody songs (“Sara Lee”), and anthemic protest music (“All These Governors”).
Their new album, Get Evens, is more of the same, and feels like a continuation of the first record. At no time do you feel like something is missing; the fact that there are only two of them playing makes it all the more impressive that they create such a complete sound, and this is testament to their ability to write well, and perform well. The Evens come across as being even more confident and substantially more aggressive in 2006 than in 2004.
At first listen — as someone who spun the self-titled debut dozens of times — my impression was that they were perhaps trying to make an album less accessible than the first. The first album moves right along; the songs are mostly somewhat brief in length. Get Evens, however, starts off with “Cut From the Cloth,” a mid-tempo track that lasts more than five minutes in length; the second track (“Everybody Knows”) and the third (“Cache Is Empty”) are each four-and-a-half minutes long. I’m not saying this is a bad thing; rather, I’m admitting my lack of patience on the first listen, and the fact that I let this cloud my judgment momentarily. The album is loaded with tracks that will become favorites for fans of The Evens — if you’ve seen them live, you know they encourage the crowd to sing along, and songs like “You Fell Down,” “Get Even,” and the new unofficial Verbicide theme song “No Money” will lend themselves to crowd participation. Another excellent aspect of this record is that Amy really shows off the range of her powerful vocals, even moreso than their last album — check out “Cache Is Empty” and track eight, “Eventually.”
Get Evens also possesses some excellent political protest songs. Like CCR’s “Fortunate Son” or Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power,” songs like “Everybody Knows” and “Dinner With The President” (while directed at the current administration) will resonate no matter what particular circumstances future shitty leaders of the free world impose upon its citizens.
Listening to the vehement lyrics of The Evens’ political songs and Ian’s banter with the crowd at shows almost makes me feel bad about myself. Here is someone in his 40s who, after suffering Reagan in his youth and three terms of two guys named “George Bush” in his adult years still believes in the power of pacifist protest, while I, in my whopping 26 years, have pretty much given up on the supposed empowerment of protest. I saw a lot of picketing and liberal hippie lip service bullshit in 2003 that didn’t do jack in 2004, but now, in 2006, we are seeing a shift in public sentiment. I’m wary…but I feel somewhat hopeful. I might be too cynical for protest, but I do appreciate bands that resonate the anger and sentiments of an awakening populace (too borrow and twist a phrase from Chuck D, The Evens might be the CNN of punk rock). I might not be a pacifist, but when I hear Amy and Ian repeatedly shouting “everybody knows you are a liar!” I am not hearing pacifist protest, but the collective voice of people who are fighting fervently for what’s right. It’s what we need, and you can dance to it.
(Dischord Records, 3819 Beecher St. NW, Washington, DC 20007)