4 out of 5
Produced by: Dave Sardy
Label: Touch and Go
Featuring ex-Skeleton Key members, fulfilling all your oddball, junk-kit aggressive pop dreams!
Wait, scratch that, because the Skeleton Key guys left! Featuring John Schmersal!
…But that’s okay. We loved John’s quirk in Brainiac, and he’d showcased his songwriting abilities further as John Stuart Mill, which, howver rough at points, also had some fantastic pop chops. So slicked over to Touch and Go, minus Skeleton Key, and with a garish neon cover, High Society totally caught me off guard. Did I mention new member Toko Yasuda’s cutesy electro pop tracks? Yeah, it really caught me off guard in a ‘that’s not my Enon!’ way. Because, y’know, it wasn’t. The group had changed from a sort of post-NY groups’ jam session into a legit band, and a Schmersal led one.
…And again, that’s okay. Because Schmersal’s a damn good writer, with lovely instincts that embrace such a wide range of styles and instruments that you’re bound to land on a hook, somewhere, that suddenly makes things click. Yes, I will always prefer the screwier nature of Believo!, just as I always prefer Brainiac’s Bonsai Superstar over their later electro stuff. But that doesn’t discount all the goodness available on the group’s other albums. Case in point is every goddamn track on High Society, on which Schmersal and crew jump between pub-y rockers like opener Old Dominion, classically bizarre stuff like Native Numb, and yeah, even Toko’s bloody Sold! is catchy fun. John’s lyrics are also satisfyingly introspective and cheeky without being overly clever or winky. And, of course, Daddy’s production wraps this all in a satisfying rawness.
So… four stars? Yeah, well, here’s the thing: No matter how retroactively accepting I can be of this stylistic shift, I don’t really feel like Enon ever nailed the ‘album’ thing after their first one. Meaning all these different styles definitely come at the cost of a linear listening experience. High Society is a way herky-jerkily sequenced disc, bit there’s no better way to navigate it. Thankfully it’s as good as mentioned.