I Want Some and Save Yourself
Reviewed by Aaron Shuman
Tuesday, November 9 1999, 4:22 PM
These new jack proprietors of soul, drawn from the remains of Washington DC punk outfits Nation of Ulysses and the Frumpies, have finally logged the chops and studio time to flesh out a band that had more concepts than music. This spring's I Want Some is a twenty-three track compilation of the band's singles. As such, it's a great window onto the formation of the the Make Up's "gospel yeh yeh" sound, wedding the "passion music" of gospel with the confectionary delights of 60s French pop. Early tracks, such as "Blue Is Beautiful" or "Type U Blood," have a Cramps feel: the Make Up was born in the garage, forging testaments to the horrors of love from a backbeat, a skittering organ, and vocals that offer ghoulish shrieks as often as howls of pure delight. From this, the Make Up crafted the fatter sound of soul-powered gems such as "Pow! To the People" and "Hey! Orpheus." These yield moments, such as the washes of organ over Ian Svenonius as he "went down to the water" on "The Choice," of a beauty uncommon in indie pop. On I Want Some, the Make Up travel from catharsis to revelation in sixty-eight minutes, and every step of the journey is worth taking.
If previous albums are sketches, albeit of increasing skill and nuance, then this fall's Brendan Canty-produced Save Yourself is the painting. The cleverness of previous albums has been replaced by a joy that comes from realizing it in new tongues. The Make Up have reached the point on their revival tour where no band is complete without an organ, a horn section, or Latin percussion, and the songs make delightful use of this increased range. "C'Mon Let's Spawn" marries War's "Low Rider" to a "Love Potion #9" break to tell the story of a fish "who went into the ocean once, and baby, I almost drowned," but returns to a small pond to be a big fish, finds a sweetie and with her, the courage to return to sea. "I Am Pentagon" reduces love to a geometric progression of "immutable sides" and "parallel planes," with a deep-throated narrator invoking the title words while a xylophone sounds from the fourth dimension.
Finally, the Make Up revisit the Hendrix classic "Hey Joe." They find new wealth in it by taking literally the idea of Black music, from the talking drum to the "Black CNN" of rap, as coded communication. Joe's flight to Mexico over a boogie break begets a guitar solo, which becomes Joe's long distance phone call to his estranged lover, asking to come back home. The guitar stratospherics which ensue are not about dreams of escape but the power of reunion and the freedom that may be found there. By bringing it back home to Hot Chocolate City, the Make Up have created an album that deserves to be called sublime.
I Want Some and Save Yourselves are K Records releases