by Celeste Tabora
Billy Joel once sang, “It’s only rock n’ roll to me”—but what would he say to Enon, who insist that they not a rock and roll band? I would hope that The Piano Man would talk sense into Matt Schulz, Toko Yasuda, and John Schmersal, because they do the rock n’ roll thing better than the majority of bands who proudly wear the RNR title.
Hailing from the hipster community of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY, Enon’s fusion of wild samples, electronic accidents and clever guitar-bass-drums rock sets them apart from the pack. Beginning with Believo in 2000 (released by See Thru Broadcasting), Enon drove fans wild and left critics pleasantly stumped with their future-forward sound. With the departure of Rick Lee and Steve Calhoon, Enon returned with their line up of three years to release High Society (Touch And Go) this year.
Enon are not merely an innovative band: they are also survivors. Schmersal was a member of Brainiac, a band that passed away with frontman Timmy Taylor’s untimely and tragic end. Taylor’s death came at a particularly traumatic time for Schmersal, who had only a week prior been in his own car wreck. Schmersal recalls, “It was hard. After Tim died, I didn’t know what to do. I just kept working on music. I found myself becoming better as a songwriter.” Brainiac has subsequently achieved something of the “might’ve been” status of the Minutemen and Joy Division, at least in countless online discussions by fans who refuse to let go.
Yasuda, on the other hand, spent some time as “the girl that used to be in Blonde Redhead” and then as “the girl that used to be in The Lapse with her significant other.” One wonders, why does she keep leaving these bands before they reach some sort of recognition? Well, maybe it was all for the greater purpose of eventually joining Enon—and hell, we should all be thankful.
Of course, you can still smell the past in this band. The sometimes-frantic guitar pace mirrors that of Brainiac. And certain elements and breakdowns do sound like Blonde Redhead/Lapse at times. But it works to their advantage, because they can let go of their musical history enough to reinvent themselves without ditching what they’ve already learned. Taking some of the best elements from their past musical incarnations (Schulz in Let’s Crash), it seems that anything goes on High Society.
The result is a fabulous collection of different types of rock music. There is something for everyone on this album. Britpop anglophiles will love the handsome guitar and key driven structure of “Window Display,” while fans of industrial or Reznor-type-rock can appreciate “Native Numb” and “Count Sheep.” Patrons of the weirdness provided by the likes of Urge Overkill, to sloppy lo-fi ala Neutral Milk Hotel, to infectious pop-savvy Weezer will happily digest “Leave It To Rust” and “High Society.” Le Tigre followers will follow right along with the beats and keys of “Disposable Parts” and “Carbonation.” Eighties synth pop spectators will go ga-ga over most of the tracks on this album, but will especially like “Sold!” Yes, all this diversity on one album.
When other bands try to make an album like High Society—far-ranging as it is, stylistically—they so often end up making the record sound schizophrenic, without a cohesive sound. Enon has succeeded in maintaining an identity on this album. They project this outbreak of dance party vibe, mixed with an undeniable appreciation for smart rock music. Yasuda’s cutely executed vocals, along with the dominating sound that escapes Schmersal’s mouth and the psycho beats created by Schulz, tell you that this is Enon and Enon own their sound.
So, maybe it isn’t all “just” rock n’ roll to me…and maybe it shouldn’t be to you either. Try some Enon for your mediocre blues.