Illuminated By the Light
(Drag City Records)
Let us sing the praises of the Soul Rebel! The world of independent rock is such a self-conscious serious lot, all assembling their obscurities into slightly off arrangements that sound at first like rock music, but different. And I am big, long standing fan of these obscurities. I want to be in their number. But after a wihle, it wears on you to hear yet another jingle-jangle sonft/loud contraption bolster up some sophomore-in-college poetry and you wanna shake your ass. Disco and techno are always there for you when you need a dose, but no self-respecting music dork wants to pass through the guilty pleasure zone of M People before getting to their M Ward CDs. They usually get explained as being "my girlfriend's CD" but c'mon dude, fess up, you know that rhythm is a dancer from first hand experience from that last time you put-your-hands-in-the-air at that last embarrassing foray to the disco. And that Stevie Wonder CD you have but never play and ironic quotation of soul hits peppering your discourse is not getting you any more in touch with your increasingly hidden funky side. Free your mind, and your ass will follow, even if it is in giant baggy pants with a wallet chain.
Fortunately, DC's Ian Svenonius has been offering solutions for the closeted Soul Rebel ever since his early days in the political garage-dance-punk agit-prom combo The Nation of Ulysses, safely sanctioned by the watermark of cool, Dischord. His funky business came to further blossom in the ridiculously cool Make-Up, where he traded the manifesto of NoU for some beautiful thing called the "Gospel Yeah Yeah Sound." I don't pretend to know what it was, but it was fantastic. More scene changes came for this dapper man and his raspy soul holler and funky funky compatriots until the most recent incarnation Weird War. The revival tent has temporarily been folded up in favor of delicious glam rock, not the over wrought faux metal of the Darkness, but true vine T. Rex and good Bowie (like the Ziggy and Diamond Dogs era) echoed hazy glam.
Illuminated By the Light locomates outta Grand Funky Station via "Illuminated" brimming with Marc Bolan fuzzed-out sexuality, declaring "You're beautiful", the sound conditioning ones ears to the golden days of late '70s album sonic, fat farty guitar buzzes with percolation of bass and percussion. "Mental Poisoning" imbues itself with touches of the vocal histrionics of Svenonius and the snaky guitar leads of past configurations, but anyone familiar with these past jaunts will be pleasantly surprised to find our Soul Rebel trading in his neon hammer for the velvet glove to great effect on this record. Bass-teuse Michelle Mae forms the base of the melodies with her delicious disco throb, best presenting itself on the Rapture like "Girls Like That." The faux new-age anthem "Crystal Anthem" encasing Ian's laser sharp falsetto is hilarious in its flourishes. The psychedelic journeys to the center of yr skull that are "A Visit To The Cave", the campfire orgasm of "Earth Mama Woman Girl Child" and the Funkadelic-like "Put It In Your Pocket" all make this a sly (as in "as a fox" and as in "and the Family Stone") delicious listen, a funky decadent break from your regularly scheduled broadcast.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com