Weird War | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Weird War

Illuminated By the Light
Drag City



They say the clothes make the man, but they seldom say the laws make the outlaw. In any case, Ian Svenonious is equally fashionista and Sandinista.



The Make-Up, one of Svenonious' most long-lived band projects, and now officially defunct, was a response to the post-romantic age -- a panoptic medium for social critique and hot-blooded allegory. The mission? Infiltrate scenesters' cut-and-paste identities, and dismantle their pretensions. The guerilla tactics? Feral guitar stabs, galvanic drumming, and hop-along bass licks.


Shortly after disbanding, Svenonious soldiered on with Make-Up bassist Michelle Mae and Royal Trux's Neil Hagerty to create Weird War. It wasn't much of a stretch -- or for that matter, a surprise -- when the band's self-titled debut forayed into the depths of tie-dyed psychedelia.


Upon recruiting Sebastian Thomson (Trans Am) to wield the sticks, the band finally found itself with a new means of carrying out the Make-Up's original enterprise.  Relocating his sensibilities from rock's garage to its garden, Svenonious sows fresh seeds of outlawry on the band's latest album, Illuminated By the Light.


Throughout Illuminated's 11 tracks, pulp imagery and alt-romance inhabit a musical space tinged with krautrock, acid jazz and electro-funk. Weird War proves it can shake and roll (without the rattle) as Alex Minoff's clean, highwayman guitar glides over fertile percussion, forming a slipstream with the clip-clopping bass reverb.


Cowbell and all, the wind-spitting "Word on the Street" blows back in your face to spoil your ego and pour soy milk all over your trendy shoes. Svenonious' breathy cantos flirt with Mae's canary harmonies in the B-movie betrayal saga "Motorcycle Mongoloid."


 "I was raised in black and white / When color intruded, I put up a fight / Well, I been fightin' ever since / I been kicking against the bricks, oh yeah," he sings, on "See About Me." The song may sound like a pleasant roll in the grass, but it reads like a posthumous triumph for the Make-Up's underground insurgency. Carrying this torch into subcultural combat, Weird War might just manage to give indie irony the comeuppance it deserves.

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