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Weird War - Illuminated By the Light

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Artist: Weird War

Album: Illuminated By the Light

Label: Drag City

Review date: Feb. 1, 2005

Ian Svenonius, the Make*Up’s head party boy, brings the same sort of two-clever-by-three-fourths shtick as the Original Sins’ Brother JT and the Fleshtones’ Peter Zaremba. However many times music lovers check the band’s ID and fail to read past band's ramshackle indie background, the Make*Up plays what used to be called “frat rock,” back when that meant the Kingsmen. Beneath the bloozy clichés (members of the Black Lips apparently “spit on the ground” when pondering the band’s bastardization of “gospel”), Svenonius grafts insightful drollery onto rote rock ‘n’ roll stupidity like a pro. Jon Spencer simply suggests the whole thing is a joke by shaking half his ass. Svenonius packs actual gags.

With his side projects (first the Scene Creamers; now Weird War, featuring members of… oh, every “scene” is incestuous as all hell. If you care, you already know), Svenonius deadpans with more precision and confidence. Illuminated By the Light blows soap bubbles at hippies (“Crystal Healing”), goes Gertrude Stein on dating anxiety (“Girls Like That”) and, on “Word on the Street” (coincidentally its most complex, danceable cut) examines how obtuse a bad reputation can get. “Destination: Dogfood” passes the mic to a wayward mutt, whose self-pitying apologia recalls a scene from Cop Rock before it veers into hardscrabble optimism.

His quavering falsetto on “Earth Mama Woman Girl Child” and Prince-like pain noises on “Motorcycle Mongoloid” showcase the egomaniacal funnyman at his most assured. Mick Jagger’s ’70s work only garners more laffs because it was, presumably, played straight.

And yet, as smart as Weird War is, it is – like anything else with Svenonius on the masthead – a party band, first and last. The fresh ‘n’ clean production job (worlds of clarity away from the Make*Up), the carefully-measured doses of disco funk… It’s still a record, something you’ll play in privacy. And this sort of thing will never be much fun unless you’re a party to the party.

By Emerson Dameron

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