October 13, 1999
For sure, they know all the angles...
8 / 10
For sure, they know all the angles. "I am pentagon, which side are you gonna be on?" squeals Ian Svenonius, plotting geometric lines between sexuality and paranoia. "I'll be your rhomboid, I'll be your trapezoid." Do the math, it's simple.
As they chalk up their sixth album in four years, Make Up remain - inevitably - the least square band on the planet. Their genius lies in the tease, the way songs stretch out through long, tense periods of foreplay much more significant than the fast and furious climaxes. It's the way Svenonius' rhetoric is all breathy hints and neurotic whispers that suggest maybe he holds some profound anarcho-sexual significance, that almost certainly there's a massive conspiracy out to get him, but that never makes anything clear.
Where the tease may have been a little frustrating on their earliest records, however, 'Save Yourself' is much more fulfilling. If the ideas remain smudged, the songs are now shaped and compelling, the once-inescapable MC5 influence only really glaring on the frantically ace '(Make Me A) Feelin' Man'. Indeed, Make Up appear to have fundamentally switched faiths, from the self-perpetuated 'Gospel Yeh-Yeh Sound' to pure, smoked voodoo.
So 'Save Yourself' itself begins with a skulking bass, bone-rattle drums and Svenonius' incantatory "You're my Dr Frankenstein". By 'The Prophet', someone's playing rolling, lop-sided piano like the spirit twin of Dr John. And when 'C'mon Let's Spawn' swaggers round, there's a full-blown, blasted New Orleans dance party in full swing, with the potently quotable Svenonius now having decided, "I wanna be a big fish in a small pond...".
Which he is, quite plainly - an icon to the international pop underground, punk rock's token soul man, a rebel with an eternally obscured cause. 'Save Yourself', however, is an album that deserves to transcend the ghetto: urgent, uptight, low-level groovy. It ends with an exhilarating cover of 'Hey Joe', vocals by guest Heather Worley, meltdown garage rock guitars and our hero on the phone as Joe imploring, "I wanna come home from Mexico, wanna turn the lights down low, turn up your stereo". A ludicrous, charged visionary, working it like a legend. An octagon, baby: plenty of points.
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