By: Eric G.
If Prince were white and sang for the Rolling Stones (when they were good), it might sound like this. The Make Up rocks but with a deliberately showy, garage-punk attitude. The presentation is just as vital as the songs themselves, and the Make Up delivers a brand of soul the likes of which haven’t been recorded in twenty years. With three ex-members of the D.C. punk outfit, Nation Of Ulysses, and the ex-bassist from the Frumpies, Michelle Mae, the Make Up has been developing its raucous interpretation of roots rock ‘n roll since 1995 with a spattering of live records, two studio albums, and a slew of singles.
The band’s early recordings were raw and full of histrionics, but it has honed in on its forte, which is organ-based soul and blues. Save Yourself is the band’s fifth album (third studio) and is full of rollicking bass lines, catchy organ riffs, and horns. Vocalist Ian Svenonius emotes with all the panache and passion he can muster with his limited vocal range. What he lacks in talent he makes up in energy. White boys proclaiming to be the messengers of soul is always pretty suspect, but the Make Up makes no bones about its cause. It’s all about preaching the gospel of rock ‘n roll.
Save Yourself is the most accomplished record the band has released. From the sixties-sounding title track with its falsetto vocal refrain to the awesome re-working of “Hey Joe” the Make Up packs quite a punch in just over thirty-five minutes. The most noticeable difference with this new record is the songwriting. The Make Up has always been entertaining, especially live, but its songs weren’t necessarily very memorable. That’s all changed with this album. “White Belts” features classic sounding riffs and infectious hooks, and “The Bells” builds confidently from a smooth, low key bass line into a crescendo of guitars.
There’s not a boring moment on this record. Fugazi’s Brendan Canty gives the band an authentic, retro-garage dynamic as producer. “The Prophet” almost gets funky with its piano and guitar interplay, and “Call Me Mommy” sounds like an old Animals outtake. Bands that overtly mix style and substance straddle a fine line, but the Make Up has its chops together. Save Yourself will have you proclaiming the Make Up your savior after one listen.