THE EVENS "The Evens" Dischord

Friday, March 11, 2005

THE EVENS"The Evens"Dischord

In the best-known of his previous bands, D.C. punk pioneer Ian MacKaye always had big muscle behind him. Minor Threat was meteoric and stunningly precise, while Fugazi had a powerhouse rhythm section that could impel even the group's sketchiest moments. The Evens, the singer-guitarist's current collaboration with singer-drummer Amy Farina, leaves the songs more exposed.

With only two instruments to support them, the vocals and the melodies must stand stalwart. On the duo's self-titled debut, they mostly do.

Fans of Fugazi (which has been on hiatus since 2002) will recognize the run-on verses and stop-start arrangements of such songs as "Mt. Pleasant Isn't" and "All These Governors," the album's most forceful tunes. Even without the fuller sound of MacKaye's earlier ventures, these songs are spry and stirring. Less expected are quieter numbers such as the lovely "If It's Water" and the bluesy "Until They're Clear," as well as the album's overdubbed contrapuntal vocals. By the austere standards of most Dischord releases, the "oooh ooohs" and "baaa aaahs" of "Crude Bomb" are wildly baroque and shockingly pretty. Generally, the duo is most convincing when it plays rough-edged hootenanny punk, but this album's experiments with sweeter ingredients lead MacKaye and Farina into a brave new world they may yet conquer.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Friday at St. Stephen's Church with the Tale of the Tape. • To hear a free Sound Bite from the Evens, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8126. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

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