HIS & HER VANITIES – The Mighty Lunge
(2009 Science of Sound)
When Ricky and Terrin Riemer had their second child in 2004, the music of His & Her Vanities was put on hold. But they and their studio/label Science of Sound barely took a break, as they began to take bands such as Sleeping in the Aviary (and their various incarnations) and Pale Young Gentlemen under their wings. They must have had some opportunity, however, to take a good look around, internalizing all the events taking place in the world at large. The Mighty Lunge is a huge welcome-back for the band, although it contains only eight tracks and clocks in at just under thirty minutes. But that’s enough time to make plenty of observations and, if you could sum up what’s going on lyrically in one statement, it might be this: This place is a mess. Even the CD’s cover is unsettling; with its nightmarish image of the world giving way as we try to cling to survival.
Ricky’s angular, interlocking guitar lines are still the main musical feature here. There are no keyboards and, with the addition of Transformer Lootbag drummer Matt Abplanalp (Abplanalp plays guitar with H&HV in performance only), what you hear is pretty much what you’ll get live. That’s not to say that there isn’t any savvy production going on. His & Her Vanities, and Ricky in particular, are quite sonically sophisticated, adding layers of instrumentation and vocals and building the tunes into glorious cacophony. Guitars relentlessly down-stroke in quarter-notes while the vocal lines are drawn out over the top. Though the band has been compared to Devo in the past, The Mighty Lunge sounds much more like the Strokes or Flaming Lips.
One song in particular illustrates the themes of psychological warfare, circular moods, paralysis and confusion that are reinforced throughout. “Fragments” churns along in the band’s familiar, self-described post-punk/pop-rock style. It’s hard to swallow everything / Without it taking over me is typical of the observations made throughout the album. Everywhere I turn there’s something / With broken parts underneath… / And if I lose my sense / I will be left in fragments. These words could apply to the warrior on the battlefield as well as the civilian at home, trying to make sense of what’s going down.
“Hits Like Hail” is another highlight: It hits like hail / Driven farther than a nail / Devoured.. / You can’t cut strings / When you know you’re gonna sink.
“What it Is” brings the Flaming Lips to mind most strikingly, building to a rousing climax. Here, There is nothing left to contemplate / Nothing left to shatter. It’s not devolution, but the feeling that we’re getting the constant runaround, so, why change fuses? as the band sings in “Fuses.” Or consider the confusion portrayed in “New Designs: The weight that hides behind the brace / It keeps us all in place / Misleads and makes you think that it’s alright… / But no it’s not. The band has really ratcheted up the lyrical content here and it pays off big time.
The real trick is how they make all of this bleakness so toe-tappingly fun. The music percolates and the melodies impart an uplifting optimism. The inside sleeve is adorned with innocuous drawings of a dragon and robot (courtesy of each of the Riemers’ two kids) and there is a sense of innocence that somehow pokes through the giant mess of a situation that we’ve so obviously gotten into. Maybe it’s summed up best in “Wait it Out.” Underneath the sunlight there is darkness / Underneath the darkness there is sunlight. If we’re hostages to the world’s authoritarian whims and systematic cycles, maybe we can wait it out until the next glimmer of sunshine gives us that slim feeling of hope. By pointing out the futility in the status quo, The Mighty Lunge makes a strong case for resolving that the cycle must be broken .