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Enon + The Bloodthirsty Lovers

(17 Aug 2002: Graceland — Seattle)


I don’t think Enon set out to become an indie-rock supergroup, but it seems that that’s what they’ve become. I can almost see the headlines now—“Ex-members of Brainiac!! The Lapse!! Skeleton Key!! Together for one time and one time only!” Well, perhaps that’s overstating it—I don’t know too many die-hard Skeleton Key fans, and Toko Yasuda is more often referred to as an ex-member of Blonde Redhead rather than The Lapse, which was her main project for much longer. However, the fact remains that the current incarnation of Enon has quite a bit more history behind it than the first.


However, for some reason, I find I liked the old version better. Enon’s first record, 2000’s Believo was something of a marvel. Veering from the XTC-like pop of “Conjugate the Verbs” and “Get the Letter Out” to the damaged, sinuous pseudo-funk of “Rubber Car” to the loungey torch song “Cruel”, the record was completely unafraid to charge headlong into uncharted territory. While the band’s latest, High Society is still a pretty damn good record, it somehow lacks the sense of playfulness and experimentation that made Believo so great. It’s not as if all the joy has suddenly left Enon-land—far from it, as the new record is still chock full of surprising and intriguing moments, from the wigged-out, crunchy “Native Numb” to the cheeky, synth-poppish “Disposable Parts” and “In This City”, which are contributions from new bassist Yasuda. The departure of drummer Rick Lee before the release of High Society left Schmersal the sole remaining member from Enon’s original configuration, and the addition of Yasuda added another very distinct songwriting voice to the mix. In theory, this should all work out just fine. However, in practice, the band comes on a little too slick for their own good in spots—while it’s all fairly enjoyable, one gets the sense that this record wasn’t quite as much fun to make as its predecessor was.


I first saw Enon play a few years ago, in support of Believo. It was a great show, with Schmersal playing the role of charismatic frontman to the absolute hilt, hamming it up, and dancing with audience members at various points in the show. The band was possessed of a peculiar energy that was hard to nail down, but completely infectious.


Before I could find out whether or not Enon was capable of continuing their winning streak this evening, there were some Bloodthirsty Lovers to contend with. The new project of Dave Shouse (ex-of The Grifters and Those Bastard Souls), the band blends smooth indie pop with electronic burbles, and seals the deal with a drummer who thinks he’s an octopus. All in all, the band cast a winning, hypnotic spell. Although individual songs were uniformly excellent, the band did suffer from a sameness to their songs, and the end of their set found me wandering towards the bar rather than standing in rapt attention at the front of the stage (which is what I was doing for their first few songs).


Particularly interesting is Shouse’s musical progression since the dissolution of The Grifters. They were a band who, if nothing else, had a distinctive, singular sound—one which sounded about as diametrically opposed to the music produced by the Bloodthirsty Lovers this evening as a band can get. The Grifters were grimy, greasy, corroded rock n’ roll—Bloodthirsty Lovers are, contrary to their name, smooth, mellow, and quite accessible. Although Shouse’s “in-between” band, Those Bastard Souls, was something of a middle ground between the two sounds, having a likeable enough, if ultimately undistinctive indie rock sound, the progression from The Grifters’ squalling, lo-fi temper tantrums to the Bloodthirsty Lovers’ streamlined sound is still quite interesting.


Enon, unfortunately, failed to up the intrigue that the Bloodthirsty Lovers gave off. Although there wasn’t anything specifically wrong with Enon’s performance, it nevertheless somehow failed to live up to expectations. Schmersal lacked the energy that marked his performance the last time I saw the band. The songs nearly sounded prefabricated, as if the band was simply acting out their assigned roles. The band almost seemed overwhelmed by their electronic gadgetry, like a bunch of helpless humans trampled by a herd of rampaging, senseless machines.


It wasn’t all bad, of course—simpler songs like “Window Display” left the requisite crisp aftertaste in one’s mouth, and the band certainly played competently enough. The most interesting visual component of the band was no longer Schmersal and his wacky antics, but new drummer Matt Schultz, who, in bashing away behind his kit, more resembled Animal from the Muppets than any human drummer I can think of. Yasuda’s presence was confident and self-assured, but she looked a little lost when she gave up her bass on a few of the more electro-numbers, such as “Disposable Parts”. Although Enon’s set was enjoyable, the total performance unfortunately failed to meet my expectations. Perhaps the band was simply having an off night, or perhaps the new lineup simply hasn’t quite gelled in the live arena yet. Whatever the cause, the end result was a rather stiff performance that failed to grab my attention the way I expected it to.

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