Some musicians are lifers. Take the case of former human being and current hip-shaking scarecrow Steven Tyler who has been fronting Aerosmith for 42 years. His voice, stage presence and fanbase are unbelievably still intact after all this time. Tyler is a lifer. Bald-headed hardcore punk legend Ian MacKaye, however, is not. At least not in the same sense as Tyler.
Having frunted influential bands Fugazi, Minor Threat and Teen Idles, MacKaye also produced records for Rollins Band, Bikini Kill, John Frusciante and others.
He now plays baritone guitar and sings in The Evens with his wife Amy Farina on drums and vocals. The duo makes a sound that is almost entirely free of frills, which is fitting of MacKaye who just turned 50.
The latest release from The Evens, “The Odds,” is the band’s third studio album.
In some cases, stripped down can mean more boring. But MacKaye and Farina avoid this completely – “The Odds” is filled with musical ideas.
On “Competing With The Till,” the duo trade verses over a stop-and-start guitar riff from MacKaye. The song’s tone almost reaches that of a silly children’s music bounce, though the lyrics about getting jipped at a bar gig remain true to MacKaye’s usual aggressive style.
Despite the stripped-down instrumentation, The Evens are still capable of a gritty growl, characteristic of the members’ old bands.
MacKaye begins “Architects Sleep” with a raspy yell that could have kicked off any number of Fugazi tracks, but once the acoustic baritone guitar kicks in, listener are sure to realize this is something different but good.
“The Odds” is the most refined release from the band and does not have any filler tracks.
The band is a perfect outlet for a productive veteran like MacKaye and should be enjoyed while it lasts. As he always has, MacKaye has moved forward without stumbling. He’ll know when to call it quits, but if he continues making sophisticated and enjoyable music like “The Odds,” we should all hope that day is a ways off.