Friday, June 22, 2007

The All Seeing Eye

So I have made at least one mention of The Evens on this blog before, making a link to their song about vowels. However, I have not really expressed the particular fondness I have for this band, a fondness based in large part on their stripped down but intense sound. I also love the band for the way in which their aesthetic can be understood as an answer a very particular existential question: How to maintain fidelity to youthful rebellion as one gets older?

That is a little awkwardly phrased, but I thought that the Badiou term was appropriate. Let me explain. First, as a general background point, in the United States radical politics has been identified with youth culture, anarchism is tied to punks, peace to hippies, etc. (If I wanted to continue writing this in Badiouisms, I would say that radical politics has been sutured to adolescent counterculture.) Thus, making it very difficult to think of how one can maintain such political commitments into adulthood. A grown up anarchist, an adult anti-war activists, the phrases suggest the caricature of an aging hippy with a ponytail comb-over. Radical politics are for the young, for those who have not learned the ways of the world. That old saying about "anyone who isn't a socialist at twenty having no heart" and so on carries particular weight here.

One half of The Evens is Ian Mackaye, famous for such bands as Minor Threat, Embrace, and Fugazi. A living icon of sorts. Now he could perhaps follow the icons of a previous generation in continuing to market nostalgia, perhaps a Minor Threat reunion tour? After all it worked for The Sex Pistols. Or give up entirely. Instead we have The Evens. The Evens have what could be described a more mature sound, played sitting down, no more jumping around; so they have left some of the kid's stuff to the kids. At the same time they have not sacrificed the core of rebellion. If anything their songs are even more direct than at least Fugazi; the chorus of "Everyone knows," which is about the current administration is quite simply, "Everyone knows you are a liar."

So one can grow old and still be punk as fuck.

Of course given my age, I almost have to believe this to be possible. I just got back from seeing The Evens live. I wont say that I was the oldest person at the show, there were some adults who brought their kids to the all ages show. I did, however, run into a few students there. One of whom pointed out that I was probably old enough to have seen Fugazi. Yes, I am that old.

One final note on the show itself. Ian Mackaye was very much what one would expect. The title of this post comes from a comment he made about a kid who had brought his laptop to record the show for Youtube. Which prompted a rant about the all seeing eye, the desire to tape everything, record everything (one could add blog everything) rather than experience it. Mackaye's impromptu lectures are as much a part of the show as the music, and all of well known topics were covered, punk breaking down the wall between performer and audience, the war, and even a brief digression about cadence. Amy Farina has a quieter intensity, focusing on singing, only really speaking up to mock Ian as a walking encyclopedia . They complement each other well.


Eric said...

If you stretch it a bit, I'm old enough to have seen Minor Threat even -- I was 14 when they broke up.

I also dig the Evens very much, but, like the "adult" band of another one of my punk-rock faves, Mike Watt's Dos, in some ways for me they aren't old/adult enough. I really like the Evens' instrumentation, but sometimes the songs themselves are not deterritorialized enough. I mean, isn't "On the Face of It" pretty much just a stripped down "Suggestion"? Or to put it politically, I want more than, or more than just, anarchy, peace, socialism.

On the other hand, listening to their first record as I type, this is pretty effing great stuff.

unemployed negativity said...

I understand the direct nature of "The Evens" lyrics to be a product of the times. Sometimes you need a nuanced account of the functioning of power, and sometimes you need to just say "power lies in accessibility, power lies."

I see your point. While "suggestion" is a great song, it encouraged a generation of punk/hardcore bands to have their one anti-sexism song, anti-racist song, etc. A checklist that was as predictable as it was boring.

What I tried to capture in my brief post/review is the interplay between a mellower instrumentation and direct lyrics.