ith their second release in as many years, it's become obvious that The Evens are more of a full-fledged venture than just the Ian MacKaye side-project many of us hoped. So: take a moment and get it all out. Fold your arms, pout like a toddler, and put your 90s Dischord catalog in the basement so you can clear some room on the shelves. Wait. Y'know what? Don't pout at all. Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina's self-titled debut wasn't so bad. In fact, it was pretty fucking good. Sure, it didn't pack the punch of Repeater or Red Medicine or even The Argument, but it was still a mighty fine album.
If Minor Threat was the blind fury of youth revolt and Fugazi was the rational-yet-stern discourse of academia, then The Evens stand as the comfortable stability of middle age. The Evens may have lacked any discernible standouts, but that’s why it worked as the perfect dinner music for the left-wing punk set. The opening line, "It's all downhill from here," set the tone. MacKaye isn't one to shy away from confrontation, but it was as if The Evens found him in a state of (gasp!) exhaustion. The words were political, but far subtler than anything MacKaye had written before. Before, MacKaye was a drill sergeant shouting instructions. On The Evens, it felt like the storm was brewing instead of being unleashed.
Get Evens is the aural embodiment of the sublimated rage of their debut. Though the instrumentation is still spare, it's meatier and more aggressive. MacKaye abandons flowing guitar lines and returns to staccato guitar riffs and loping progressions. Farina, meanwhile, steps it up, employing more complex rhythms and drum fills. The meditative trance of The Evens is gone, replaced by an album that ditches frailty and embraces impact.
Opener "Cut from the Cloth" finds MacKaye asking, "Is this my world I no longer recognize?", echoing the questioning confusion of The Evens. But at the halfway mark, the duo launch into a frenetic breakdown that juices everything up. The chorus of the next track finds them nearly shouting, "Everybody knows you are a liar!", and then on "Cache Is Empty," saying, "Your cache is empty 'cause your body's that way." This is MacKaye at his most direct, and his target is obvious. Dubya is alluded to or directly mentioned on every single song.
Each one of the aforementioned songs (and many more) are stronger as individual pieces than the selections on The Evens. They're also, to the probable delight of Fugazi and Minor Threat fans, faster and more spirited. As a result, Get Evens is less cohesive than its predecessor—eventually losing steam near the end. So while Get Evens is another satisfying effort from this D.C. duo, it's a transitional one. Frankly, I was quite fond of the studied discontent of The Evens, no matter how much of the renewed passion here is welcome. But Get Evens, unlike The Evens' debut, leaves us with something to look forward to: the possibility of Farina and MacKaye energizing their already bracing formula and giving us an album that'll make people forget about Fugazi reunions altogether.
Reviewed by: Tal Rosenberg
Reviewed on: 2006-11-08