Album Reviews

Weird War – Illuminated By The Light

(Drag City) UK release date: 18 April 2005

Weird War - Illuminated By The Light Though the members of Weird War have been knocking around the gigging circuits of the US for over 10 years in one guise or another, the names of Ian Svenonius, Michelle Mae, and Alex Minoff are yet to register much more than a blip in this sceptred isle. Illuminated By The Light might just change that.

As part of the Nation Of Ulysses, Svenonius once proposed a “13-point program to destroy America”. But if structured polemics is your bag, then best look elsewhere. Illuminated may have its heart in freak-flag activism, but the head is looking for party thrills when the revolution comes and the assembled, ahem, mofo’s are lined up against the wall.

Weird War may be post-Hardcore and definitely post-Blues Explosion, but this is a world away from Green Day‘s arch but tuneful Bush-baiting. By dint of metaphor though, its just as convincing, but Svenonius, Mae, and Minoff have more fish to fry than the easy-bait of those pesky new-cons.

Girls Like That is a unisex examination of shallow gender preferences (“maybe it’s psychology/or biology/or astrology”) where Svenonius moves from laconic musing to falsetto rebuke, all assisted by Mae’s rolling bass and Minoff’s punctuative hi-hats. The half-mumbled Word On The Street is buffeted by bluesy guitar-lines and door-knock cow bells where Svenonius comes on like an androgynous Phil Lynott, whispering conspiracy theories to himself about the downfall of the Western dream.

What’s really weird about Weird War is the bubblegum-filtered pop instincts. Illuminated itself has the goofiness of prime Chinnichap in a face-off with The Rah Band‘s moog-stomper The Crunch. See About Me (“let me tell you about the founding fathers”) “ooh-aahs” and “oo-wee”‘s over a honkytonkin’ piano. It might be nonsense. It might be as serious as the ice cap melting.

Weird War are helpful enough to provide crib sheets that provide meanings to each number. It’s a take it or leave it situation. For instance, Crystal Healing is theoretically intended to proscribe a “..USA as a debtor nation in post-industrial decline..”. Drawing this from Crystal Healing’s super-furry world may be as simple as divining global democracy from American foreign policy, but it’s fun trying.

The motorpsycho nightmare of Motorcycle Mongoloid is Illuminated’s… piece de resistance though. Ostensibly a tale of ‘my woman done left me’ with Svenonius’ deserted lover reciting the contents of his Dear John letter. Michelle Mae’s glacial vocals kicks in over a bassline that walks like a man. She’s run off with “the motorcycle mongoloid” “at the back door” with the kiss-off of “have a good time at the war”. Somehow combining gothic-spook and drifter romanticism, the motorcycle mongoloid just might be the darkness on the edge of town.

For rock’n’roll with a garage aesthetic, Weird War play fast ‘n’ loose with the efficiency of a lost tribe raised on nowt but edible copies of Are You Experienced and Maggot Brain. Indeed, the Funkadelic parody and declaration of individuality that is Destination: Dogfood has the fuzzy yet crystalline leads of Eddie Hazel at his acid best.

If Illuminated By The Light doesn’t get the breaks it deserves, don’t go with that flow. To paraphrase Svenonius quoting Fidel Castro , history will absolve you.

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Weird War – Illuminated By The Light