So, as I’m writing this, the new Enon album is the subject of a degree of buzz in the underground rock scene. With the all-new personnel and a decidedly unprecedented new sound for the trio, the question arises: is the hype deserved? The answer is ultimately an emphatic "yes." In fact, the up-beat pop-rock High Society, a follow-up to the well-received Believo! from the NYC-based underground sensations leaves little to be desired aside from the poorly executed cover artwork.
The strength of implementation for High Society seems to lie in John Schmersal’s ability to constantly push the limits of genre, never looking back, producing hit after hit by constantly experimenting with the form of the classic rock-and-roll song. Presently, Schmersal’s project has taken him far from the early balls-out rock realm of Brainiac and the first Enon incarnation into a much more calculated and down right poppy style. One can’t help but notice the incongruity of a forty-minute album with fifteen songs on it. Yet while the torrent of quasi-sexual rock that defined Believo! is largely absent from the new album, the bedrock of Enon’s songs remains unquestionably simple rock and roll. With this as a starting point, digital embellishments are added to the mix, forming a collection of songs in which every one is a hit single in its own right. D. Sardy gets the nod for the production credit, as High Society manages to integrate a universe of sounds while maintaining an unflinching pop-rock feel.
No doubt this transition has been helped along by the addition of indie-rock all star, Toko Yasuda (Blonde Redhead, The Lapse). Toko actually takes center stage on four tracks with remarkable effect. The cuteness of the accent almost wears off, but songs like “Disposable Parts” are insidiously catchy despite the borderline saccharine tone. These Toko-tunes, as they ought to come to be known, are by far the greatest departure from anything Brainiac or Enon has ever attempted, taking on static backbeats with pervasive digital effects ornamenting electro-pop that seems to recollect certain radio-friendly singles from the mid-nineties.
In this case, passing the mic is a testament to John Schmersal’s commitment to innovation and musical development. What’s more, it wouldn’t be a stretch to note that he even takes a few compositional cues from Blonde Redhead (listen to “Pleasure and Privelege” and “Natural Disasters”). This facet is merely an instance of an unfettered eclectic trend running throughout High Society. From the hard-hitting rock tunes like “Sold!” and “Window Display,” to the understated electronica of “Leave it to Rust” and the Toko-tunes, to the orchestrated Malkmus-esque title track, High Society covers a lot of ground. Nonetheless, there’s an indescribable thread holding the seemingly disparate songs together, and one can’t help being carried along with the dynamic arc of the album, head bobbing in assent.
While the lyrics often leave something to be desired, Enon’s latest effort is, at heart, all about classic execution of catchy (if not particularly innovative) songs. The cover advertises “Better Now! Better Now! Better Now!” and egoism aside, High Society is in fact a big step up for Schmersal and his ever-evolving band. It has all the characteristics of a classic album that could be the newest need-to-own indie-rock CD. With the release of such a successfully ambitious and far-reaching project we can only wonder where they’ll take us next — it seems one can only expect the unexpected from Enon.
By Matt Kellard