Enigma - Eccentricities
Enigma returns to our waiting and wondering ears after a couple of years of nearly non-stop performing, all the while still taking the time (including, it seems, a good portion of that which would, otherwise, be devoted to sleep) to dig deep into their souls for the right sounds and the right words that would blend together to make the perfect commingling of ideas and emotions suitable to present before us as their much anticipated sophomore offering, that which they have dubbed Eccentricities. In many ways, the title is a well chosen epithet as, with Eccentricities, the band has transgressed perimeters not challenged in their debut venture, Juxtaposition (2006), and allowed themselves to be swayed and seduced by some distinctly different muses than those inspiring them to conjure their very urbane and gratifying first fruits.
Eccentricities is, not at all surprisingly, a very well co-written and carefully constructed labor of love, anger, joy, frustration, melancholic, salaciousness and sexuality with an occasional do-si-do into dimly lit worlds of spectral sorrows and disturbingly compelling, trans-dimensional bete noires that leave us, inexplicably, wanting to see more of what lives just beyond the platitudes of normalcy. Eccentricities often steps outside the bounds of what we expect to hear from what is, in its essence, a Blues-centric band from the American heartland, with songs like “Midnight Star”, with its Twilight-Zone-meets-From-Dusk-Till-Dawn lyrics:
The band was led by a demon on guitar
He was screamin’, fire danced off his strings
The guy on the bass, he was floating in space
And the drummer had a pair of dark hairy wings
And just like a Quentin Tarantino film, the “Midnight Star” goes further down the back alley of depravity:
The band played some more, they were groovin’
And I felt like movin’, I got out on the floor
A man pulled me in, in a spin, chin to chin,
My skin quivered ‘cause I figured I’d seen him before
In my darkest dreams he’s come to me,
He said, “I see your soul ain’t quite right.”
I couldn’t lie, I was caught, who’d have thought
I’d be dancin’ with the devil on a Saturday night
But the album is not a tryst with the things that go bump in the night, so much as a journal of the wild and exotic places and bold ideas the artists were exposed to by their muses during the conception, gestation and birth of Eccentricities which, as lyricist and vocalist, Carolyn Olesen, would tell you did not come forth without agonizing and protracted labor pains, which she captures with clarity in her introspective, “Driven”, which may be a bit less of a repeat toe-tapper to those who haven’t experienced a similar frenetic frustration, but it does paint a very clear picture of the artist’s plight, complete with the cacophonous torment of the writer’s bloc and the rapturous, radiant ecstasy heralding the arrival of the capricious muse and her indocile gift of crystalline thought and effortless creative yield:
Up all night to get it right, gotta get this down
Sacrifice, pay any price just to find the sound
Eccentricities isn’t entirely eccentric, however. In fact, the bulk of the collaborative (David M. Epp, who plays all the instruments, writes the music at his leisure; Carolyn Olesen then summons her muse to help her find the words and the rarified air, albeit at times, the miasma to fit with Dave’s porch swing musical concoctions – this is easy, right?) is a clever, silky smooth and sweetly flowing, innovative, in-your-face modern pop music gem with a multiplicity of countenances from hard-driving, electric guitar rock and roll (“When Superman Comes Home”) to twangy, catchy, and way-too-sad-but-true (lyrically) country crossovers (“Fed Up With All of You”) and all the way out the back door of the chicken shack to pure, twelve-bar, father-of-all-whiskey-drinkin’-music blues (“Jungle Boy Blues”) and back, via mid-seventies California, with a southern-country rock-folk, feel good, sittin’-with-my-honey-by-the-sweet-warm-fire mesmerizer (“Home With You”). Indeed, Eccentricities does touch a lot of different feelings and musical persuasions, but the album maintains focus and flow, from the opening, “wall-of-sound”, power-chord driven opener (the aforementioned, “Superman”) to the dulcet, mellow, twelve-string mystifying of the closing instrumental (“At the End of the Day”).
Arguably, the most potent and marketable songs on the CD start with the prior-referenced, “When Superman Comes Home”, which is not only a very listenable and sumptuously catchy rock anthem (somewhat reminiscent of Sammy Hagar’s sound from back in the early eighties), but also a lyrical tour de force with its biting assault on American (yes, even global) apathy. Another likely radio aspirant is “Buy Belize”, which joyfully states what every person in America is thinking as the doldrums of the office grind cut to the quick on a bone chilling February morning. Its happy, bouncy Jimmy Buffett-esque rhyme makes the listener wish he or she was a little more Warren Buffett-esque and, hence, of the means to make the words in the song come true! Yet another sure winner, quite likely to find its place as a parting shot on some talented folk music incumbent’s next album, is the lucid and sentimental, “Home With You”, a song that prompts the listener to recall how important it is to be able to forget about the inhumanity of our ant colony workplace existence and just let a few fleeting moments of quiet, quality time with the object of our heart’s desires multiply in our thoughts into a sweet, serene and uninterruptible forever. The last and likeliest efficacy is the country rocker (Enigma calls it a “cross-over”) called “Fed Up With All of You”, which plants a firm and not-soon-forgotten size 12, steel-toed work boot squarely in the pampered buttocks of every American politician. Even though this song has been written a thousand times before, it hasn’t had quite the vinegar of the Enigma permutation. As good as this song sounds as it is sung by Ms. Olesen, it would be a lot more intimidating and would coax a chorus of rebel yells from coast to coast sufficient to be heard loud and clear on Capital Hill if it were song by some big ol’, good ol’ boy, like Toby Keith - just the sort of wild, redneck country boy no candy-assed politico wants to meet outside a cowboy bar (or any other place, for that matter).
Enigma has scored a round tripper with their beta production. Eccentricities proves that the Enigma duo has the talent and the tenacity to turn right around, even as they may have lingered in the feel-good glow of entre nous rightly conferred upon them, based upon their incipient recognition and the plaudits that came along with Juxtaposition, and deliver a veritable compendium of wildly divergent ideas and musical forms appropriate to persuade one to suggest that Enigma has only begun to explore its capabilities and to evoke the lavish inclinations of their individual and collective muses. Perhaps this Enigma band has what it takes to make the great leap from Eccentricities to the next and most elusive and exigent of levels, that upon which the truly great and gifted prove to us all, willing but skeptic – the consummate audiophiles, that they have something that no other band can replicate. After listening to Eccentricities, you might very well come away thinking, as I do, that these two talented musicians have the creative prowess necessary not only to entertain even the most discriminating of listeners, but also to draw into their gravitational pull those persons willing and able to take a great song (or a great band) to a place where it might enjoy a broader exposure. Eccentricities is a superlative accomplishment. I look forward to seeing what the next level looks like for Enigma.
Review by Glen Sherman