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Künstler: The Evens


D.C. scenesters, bandmates, sweethearts, married couple, and now parents, Amy Farina and Ian MacKaye have done it all and done it punk the entire time. The two put down the angular brood and rage of their old bands Fugazi and the Warmers to begin stripped-down duo the Evens in 2001, with drums, baritone guitar, and softly menacing harmonies being the sole elements to most of their compositions. The Odds is record number three from the Evens, following a six-year gap since their last self-titled album, during which the couple spent some time becoming new parents and focusing on all the things that come along with children, even when you happen to be both parents and figureheads of the punk movement. Instead of the shift toward softer kid-friendly sounds that sometimes happens when makers of aggressive music have children, the Evens return with the same moodiness, urgency, and righteous anger that marked their earlier work. While the songs never take on the explosive jettison of Fugazi or the mathy crash of the Warmers, a subdued, almost more sophisticated version of the same energy is right below the surface. MacKaye's trademark gruffness on "I Do Myself" comes through not in shouty protest, but more of a concentrated dissatisfaction and anxiety in the low-sung harmonies. Farina's pensive brushwork on the drums and counterpoint vocals complete the song's silently turbulent vibe; it's the sound of someone isolated, trying to keep busy and slowly losing her grip. The song's steady, rolling energy is as caustic as the most frantic 90-second hardcore blast. Farina shines on "The Warble Factor," belting out lyrics that shift between dark adult themes and deceptively childlike. Going from lines like "You were freed when you were dying" to a sullen chorus of "Look at the ants go, look at the ants go, I think those ants know" is a strange juxtaposition. Musically, the song is dire, with a darkly complex guitar line and drums that feel lost at sea, and then a chorus that could either be a metaphor for the Occupy Movement or simply a child's singalong, or possibly both. The band's minimal instrumentation and use of space highlight the complexities of the lyrics, especially on the vacant "This Other Thing" and "Competing with the Till," whose slinky bass figure recalls the sparsity of Fugazi's classic song "Long Division." The statements here are never overt. The Evens' politics aren't anywhere close to as charged as their Bush-era material, and even the effects of parenthood on their lives are mysterious, save the photo of their silhouetted son that graces the album cover. But much like the skeletal nature of their songs, a lot is conveyed in the empty spaces. Moving through adulthood still committed to the punk struggle, The Odds shows the Evens as more refined and understated than ever. Instead of softening, their jagged angles and obtuse political commentary have just become more involved, and in some ways, more intense. ~ Fred Thomas