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Make Up - Untouchable Sound

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Artist: Make Up

Album: Untouchable Sound

Label: Sea Note

Review date: May. 10, 2006

I am an impassioned Make Up apologist. I’m interested in any band that can provoke the sorts of negative reactions Ian Svenonius got through his work with the band, and has taken with him since its dissolution. I was interested enough in the Make Up to listen to them, and I listened to them long enough to become a fan. It hasn’t made me many friends, and I don’t think this live record is going to turn anyone’s head around, so keep that in mind if you hate the Make Up.

Svenonius’s first band, the Nation of Ulysses, made a lot of little punk-rock hearts go pit-er-pat, and they’d hardly deny it now. The man always had a complex sense of humor – that was obvious from the beginning. But when he adopted some tropes commonly associated with “gospel,” he got a bit harder to take for some people. There aren’t a lot of gospel clowns around, and a lot of punks won’t sign their paychecks.

Like most of Svenonius’s work, Untouchable Sound bears the accouterments of a complex in-joke. During his frequent stage patter, Svenonius sounds like a drunken teenager doing a bad Prince impression. The lyrics are silly, self-aware and littered with neon quote marks.

If you can get past that, though, this is the band’s most resolute, potentially enduring testament – it’s the sound of the band going for broke. Recorded at home in Washington, D.C. in 2000, the Make Up sound like they knew this was a last chance to goof off. The band loosens up until it almost falls apart, then tightens up again. It’s a hard trick to pull off, unless you can live as if your ass is on the cosmic line, if only for an hour.

Meanwhile, Svenonius keeps his inimitable sense of humor, for what that’s worth. He may be an incorrigible punk-ass fake-ass, but I’d be surprised to hear any Make Up hater perform an accurate impression of his performance here.

As always, Make Up prizes comedy over craftsmanship. But Untouchable Sound reminds the willing that, when done with gospel fervor, comedy can be as cathartic as anything else.

By Emerson Dameron

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