Truth be told, I never quite “got” The Make-Up’s whole concept, at least on a musical level. Even conceptually speaking, lead singer Ian Svenonius and his company of manifesto-writin’, white suburban rhythm & blues- playin’, gospel-sermonizin’ prophets never resonated with me in the same way that his former band, Nation of Ulysses, did. All of my Washington D.C.-based twentysomething hipster friends assured me that it was because I hadn’t seen them live, and that once I did I would be converted, as I was with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. But I never completely wrote them off, because any band that came from the ashes of one of the most important punk-rock bands of the ’90s (Nation of Ulysses) is worth a second listen in my book, and I like it.
Opening with part one of “Black Wire,” an MC5-inspired Booker T. & the MGs/’60s soul instrumental-styled vamp, the album doesn’t seem to diverge from previous Make-Up releases. But “Live in the Rhythm Hive,” the second song, changes directions nicely, serving up a straight-outta-D.C. swamp-rock riff that carries through the rest of the song, a song that is punctuated with Svenonius’ characteristically strained vocal wails.Much of In Mass Mind follows in the footsteps of “Rhythm Hive,” and with “Earth Worm” (parts one and two), the band even makes a credible foray into dub reggae.
It’s unnecessary but interesting, partially because it seems that these guys (and woman) have succeeded in creating a more varied album than their previous efforts. In Mass Mind got me so excited about The Make-Up that I went rooting through my record collection to pull out their earlier albums, only to find that — damn! — I’d sold them. Now I’ll never know if I was just missing the point or if this is their first solid album. I guess the fact that “Adam and Eve” produced In Mass Mind can be interpreted as a sign that this is a fresh beginning for The Make-Up, or maybe I’m just rationalizing my being an idiot.