Song: "You Won't Feel A Thing"
Album: The Evens
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When a musician who has established and aligned themselves with a particular style decides to diverge from that sound, the results are often such that the longtime followers of the musician in question "abandon" the performer and the new direction they have taken. However, there are a handful of cases, where the new style is so intriguing, or the musicians' fans so dedicated or open-minded, that the change in musical format only expands the aura of the performer in question. Having made his name legendary as the "Godfather" of the hardcore and "D.I.Y." sounds, there are few musicians who are held in as high regard as former Minor Threat and Fugazi frontman, Ian MacKaye. With these two bands having a reputation for the pulverizing attack of their music, it would have been hard for MacKaye to have taken a more contrasting musical approach when he formed his guitar and drums duo known as The Evens. Truth be told, it is rather difficult to accurately describe the style of music performed by The Evens, as there are clear elements of everything from folk to blues to punk, and this diversity in sound is one of the many aspects that makes their music so intriguing. Taking the trademark themes of political discontent and mistrust and spinning them into a quieter, yet just as confrontational sound, the brilliant sound of The Evens is perfectly captured in their 2005 song, "You Won't Feel A Thing"
Taken from the groups' stunning debut record, "You Won't Feel A Thing" is without question one of the finest songs in the catalog of The Evens, and from the moment it begins, one can feel the sense of urgency and discontent in both the music and lyrics. It is groups like The Evens that prove that one need not be loud to be heavy or punk, as much like the rest of their songs, "You Won't Feel A Thing" is musically nothing more than MacKaye on baritone guitar and drumming from Amy Farina. The sound the duo create is truly unlike anything else in recorded history, as it takes the volume and form of the folk sound and fuses it together with the energy and emotion of the punk rock style. This idea is further enforced by the fact that anyone familiar with any of the early hardcore bands can easily hear songs like "You Won't Feel A Thing" as a stripped down version of these sounds, as both the pace and spirit are the same, though the sonic approach is quite different. MayKaye's guitar resonates across the track, giving the song an amazing sense of depth, while a the same time helping to keep a slightly nervous, darker mood. The drumming from Farina keeps things moving at a fantastic pace, and the fact that the song moves so swiftly adds to the overall sense of impending confrontation, and it is this combination that makes songs like "You Won't Feel A Thing" so extraordinary.
Along with the superb, combative musical arrangements that he has become known for, Ian MacKaye also possesses one of the most instantly recognizable voices in music history. However, his vocal approach within the confines of The Evens is a far cry from the sound that he displayed within his former bands. Yet it is on songs like "You Won't Feel A Thing" that his unmatched musical talent becomes apparent, as this vocal style sounds just as good as any other he has performed over the years. The manner in which his voice blends with Farina's is nothing short of spectacular, and it provides a fantastic contrast to the verses which he mostly performers solo. Though the vocals are far more musical than his other projects, and in many ways more restrained, the lyrics of The Evens show that the overall sentiments that fueled the early punk and hardcore movements are alive and well within this band, and they pack just as much power as their louder counterparts. On "You Won't Feel A Thing," the familiar cynical, anti-government themes come through as they have for nearly all of MacKaye's career, and though they are performed in a more restrained manner, they pack just as much of a punch. With lines like, "... they'll beat you with the truth so you won't feel the lies...," it is clear that MacKaye is on the attack as much as ever, and the thought provoking lyrics are as good as, if not better, than any of his previous musical incarnations.
Perhaps due to being recorded and released during one of the most politically "hot" times in recent history, the entire debut record from The Evens proves that the spirit and sound of the hardcore movement is still alive and well, and can be easily transferred to more introspective formats. Taking this idea a step further, the music of The Evens can be seen as solidifying the link between the "true" folk sounds of artists like Woody Guthrie and the direct influence it had on the entire punk rock movement. Ripe with unrelenting, questioning lyrics like, "...they'll tell you everything but they won't tell you anything...," MacKaye proves that he is still the best at writing perfectly crafted, accusatory songs that make one sit back and reconsider all of what the media and government say on a daily basis. The fact that these words have just as much, if not more impact than those placed within the louder and more punk or hardcore sounds proves once again that volume rarely equals impact, and the almost delicate musical arrangement on "You Won't Feel A Thing" is without question one of the finest of MacKaye's entire career. The manner within which he blends his voice with Farina is nothing short of beautiful, and yet throughout their entire debut album, there is a brilliant sense of the songs become very raw and straightforward, epitomizing the entire essence of the punk rock ethos. Taking a stark stylistic shift, yet proving that his confrontational musical approach can be transferred into nearly any style, there are few songs that pack a similar punch as The Evens' 2005 track, "You Won't Feel A Thing."