SENSUOUS ENEMY – Deadly Sins
(2006 Sonic Mainline Records)
A friend of mine likes to argue that all the popular genres of music in existence today had their roots in the 1980s. Being children of that decade, Sensuous Enemy‘s music could easily be used as evidence by someone attempting to prove that theory. After several years of visually stunning performances around Madison, SE finally have a debut CD. Deadly Sins is an EP of seven songs that don’t necessarily correlate with each of the seven deadly sins, but they draw largely upon the kind of music that dominated the pop charts two decades ago.
The synth-pop genre is essentially ‘80s new wave and goth music reborn, and Sensuous Enemy are prime examples of it. The band got its start as the trio of singer Jai, drummer/programmer ffej, and programmer/singer Brian Schuh, and although Schuh left the band nearly a year ago due to artistic differences, the inspiration he seems to derive from the ‘80s is as present in the tracks he co-wrote for this CD as it has always been in his solo recordings. The iconoclastic “Deity,” which starts off sounding like the Genesis song “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” underwent slight molecular modifications to cater to today’s underground club beats. There are many moments where anyone old enough to remember jelly bracelets the first time they appeared will have the cobwebs wiped from a part of their brain they forgot about and recall a riff that Casey Kasem played for them long ago. However, these elements are often tempered with enough thumping electronic percussion and smoothly looping synthesizers that these songs clearly belong in the new millennium.
Arguably, the album’s greatest strength is the voice of Jai, who went to college for vocal training but afterwards put the artistic side of her life on hold for many years while she pursued other interests. Although her singing is rather understated in much of the mix, it’s clear that if her vocals were phasers they would be set to kill instead of stun. Even the subdued romantic songs, which often sound more like a black widow spider’s definition of romance, don’t afford her wailing vocal cords much mercy. She rarely lets up, and one has to wonder if her stamina is fueled by some unholy power that possesses her.
One of the standout tracks is their heavily synthesized cover of Lindsey Buckingham’s “I Go Insane.” Anyone who remembers that ditty from 1984 probably thinks they were the only one who did, but here it’s properly resurrected with female screams and industrial beats. It’s a highlight of their shows, which often incorporate go-go dancers and presently feature four musicians, with the recent addition of Sir William on guitars and B.O.B. on drums. Their live performances are among the most spectacular in our neck of the woods, and now they’ve proven that their talent translates just as well onto studio recordings.