The Evens - The Evens (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Evens

The Evens (2005)


I realize that what I’m about to admit will probably have me drawn and quartered or tarred and feathered or whatever more punk rock punishment there is for blaspheming a punk icon, but The Evens’ self titled album is my favorite Ian MacKaye album. The album has these haunting melodies that stick with you for long after the album is over. It had been 18 years since the last time MacKaye had put out a record as part of any act other than Fugazi and—not to knock Fugazi or their final album, The Argument, because that album was brilliant—but by the point of The Argument, Fugazi had become highly dense and complicated. For the debut LP of The Evens, it’s no surprise that MacKaye wanted to take a different direction from his previous project. In many ways, The Evens, with its less-is-more style is an equal and opposite reaction to The Argument.

The Evens are a two-piece project between MacKaye and his wife, Amy Farina. It’s not publicly known when the couple wed, but they were most likely already a couple by the time they put out the first Evens record, probably having first met when Farina was in The Warmers with Ian MacKaye’s brother. What I’ve always loved about The Evens is that, even though MacKaye was a punk legend already and could have created a solo project (or a de facto solo project) with no-name members to prop up his own name, instead The Evens are a band that live up to their name. Farina has had her own career in the DC punk scene, and her contributions to The Evens shine through as much as MacKaye’s, with her never sounding like a second banana in the group. MacKaye and Farina are, in all ways, partners.

There are no bad songs on The Evens, but there are certainly highlights. The album kicks off with an amazing 1-2-3 punch of three of its best songs. “Shelter Two” firmly establishes The Evens’ style, with the powerful melodies fed by the juxtaposition between male and female vocals. Then on “Around the Corner,” we see the first song that Farina takes more of a lead on, as MacKaye is primarily just featured in a bridge. MacKaye is the more featured vocalist on “All These Governors,” a song about the obstructionist nature of bureaucratic government. When I hear it today, alongside America’s recent debate and direct action taken regarding gun control, I can’t help but notice that the chorus of “All These Governors” fits the present situation perfectly: “When things should work but don’t work/That’s the work of all these governors…So we won’t wait/We won’t wait for all these governors.”

When I said that The Evens was an album with a less-is-more style, I should have specified that I meant that in the fact that it was recorded with two undistorted instruments. Farina’s drumming on the album is often anything but simplistic, especially on songs she seems to have taken a lead on like “Around the Corner” and “Crude Bomb.” “Sara Lee” always amuses me because the song’s hook is actually the two words “not necessarily,” but the title was derived from chopping the first three syllables off of that phrase and leaving us with “Sara Lee.” It’s possibly the most delicate song on the album, that slowly builds to a modest crescendo without going overboard about it. But one of my absolute favorites has to be “Minding Ones Business,” in which MacKaye methodically repeats what sounds almost like a religious chant, while Farina slowly croons over him. The album notes claim the only instruments on this album were a guitar and drum, but at times on songs like “Minding Ones Business,” MacKaye certainly knows how to make that guitar sound like a bass.

The Evens are presumed to still be together today, even though it’s been six years since the release of their last album. Farina and MacKaye are married (with one child), so one could assume, barring any sort of separation on a personal front, The Evens remain together, if not particularly active, putting out a record every few years, and also remain MacKaye and Farina’s sole current project going forward, barring the reunion of one of their previous bands. Personally I think, after a lifetime in punk, working in a handful of great bands, if you’re looking to settle down and mellow out a bit and make some quieter music, you couldn’t do much better than putting together a band like The Evens.