The Evens’ sophomore album, “Get Evens,” is like a poorly constructed haiku. It takes complex ideas and strips them down into an overly simple, incomplete form. That the album does not inspire new ideas is not an offense in itself; that it makes heated political issues banal is. A band from Washington, D.C., being political is about as surprising as a teenage girl liking the movie “Mean Girls,” so standing out requires an extra push. The Evens make no such effort, dangerously coupling straightforward lyrics and subdued musicality. “Get Evens” lacks the element of surprise that would save it from redundancy.
The Evens is a collaboration between Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye and Warmers’ Amy Farina. Starting when Fugazi was on hiatus, the two musicians have broken away from the musical styles for which they are best known. MacKaye abandons his trademark gravelly screams for a more mellow, atonal growl. Amy Farina pulls back the reins on her drumming and vocals, mostly making noise to cover potential silences in MacKaye’s guitar playing. The name of the record label sums up the result of the partnership in one word: discord. It could also describe the work of Fugazi and the Warmers, but “Get Evens” lacks the emotional power that characterizes the other two bands, and even The Evens’ eponymous debut album.
The Evens jackhammer their points home using repetition ad nauseam. In the track “No Money,” a vague rant about corruption, the song breaks down into Farina singing, “No money! No money!” Though at first striking, it quickly becomes the musical equivalent of a dull, pounding headache. Without aggressive guitar riffs and screams, the poor lyrics that fly in the louder, more driving bands come up short. The tempered, uniform sound cannot hold up the musicians’ apparent desire to agitate political unrest. The album lacks the volatile feeling that would galvanize listeners to believe its message and riot in the streets or send letters to senators. “Get Evens” does not display the musical or social promise that is shown in the first track, “Cut from the Cloth,” which engages the listener with the snarled line, “How do people sleep amongst the slaughter?”
Some might argue that in the history of music, lyrics as a focal point in songs are a relatively recent development. But when the album ends with a song entitled “Dinner with the President,” and the pacing of the songs lacks the driving force to inspire any feeling, one expects a certain level of sophistication. Instead, the Evens do away with metaphors and subtlety, addressing the entire album to unnamed political institutions. The average complexity of the words is, “Everybody knows you’re a liar.” From the sound of it, that a third party is listening is a secondary concern. “Get Evens” is a personal album, merely a musical diatribe addressed to the U.S. government.
But the source of the album’s almost unlistenable quality is probably that every song feels thirty seconds too long. Every track trails off, fading from the repeated central message of the track to throwaway guitar chords. Unsure of how to end each song, The Evens seem to let the tracks belatedly end themselves.
When The Evens promise, in the penultimate track, that they’re “gonna get even one of these days,” it comes off as a half-hearted grumble at the end of a protracted rant.