By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
The answer to the question you are naturally going to ask about Ian MacKaye from Fugazi's new band is, yes. Yes, they're as good as Egghunt. They're as good as any of MacKaye's other post-Minor Threat, pre-Fugazi pit stops, Pailhead and Embrace. No, they're not as good as Fugazi, but can you really name a band that is these days?
Evens is composed of MacKaye on vocals and guitar and D.C. punk-scene stalwart/former Warmers drummer (try saying that three times fast) Amy Farina on vocals and drums. The Evens play up their duo-ness and don't attempt to sound anything like a full band. They sound like the summer fun band you start with your roommate, uncomplicated and uncommitted. MacKaye plays it chivalrous, sticking to the role of frugal rhythm guitarist, letting Farina's rollicking mod-pop drumming dominate while her folky voice carries the songs. MacKaye also sings, and abandons the drill-sergeant-with-a-heart bark that he has stuck to with impressive fidelity since about 1979. Farina and MacKaye duet with a hymnal austerity that will be familiar to anyone raised in the Lutheran church. This is a solemn, pale, mournful album--it might have more in common with the Singing Senators than it does with the rest of the Dischord catalog.
The songs are often about coming up to the edge and having no place to go, about routine, numbered days, alienation from a dying scene. The album's opener, "Shelter Two," strikes a tone of futility embraced--a tone that doesn't relent for the album's duration--with its dour chorus, "It's all downhill from here/We keep climbing but we never find the top/It's all downhill from here." Why such disappointment? Could be the election--the shadow of the Capitol has always loomed large over D.C. punks, or it could be the understandable frustration of a 40-year-old punker whose exemplary populism and integrity has been blithely ignored in favor of Warped Tour brass rings and the lowest common denominators. (Though when supposing about Ian MacKaye, you're probably supposing wrong. Those Fugazi songs you thought were about birthday ponies, masturbation, and long-distance running turned out to be about Anita Hill, Guy Piccotto's mother, and a long-forgotten House majority whip.)
At any rate, MacKaye and Farina are still doing what they have always done, making records for themselves and their peer demographic. It's just that their demographic is no longer the kids in the pit, but rather adults having a quiet night at home. Ironically (and unfortunately), The Evens is a flatly unemotional record from someone often credited as one of the godfathers (or grandpas) of emo.