Make Up - After Dark (Cover Artwork)

Make Up

After Dark (1996)


Few bands have ever accomplished the level of confusion that the Nation of Ulysses were able to perpetuate in their four short years of existence. The band's swagger, destructive live shows, and jazz-infused brand of hardcore mixed with their over-the-top political rants and uncompromisingly militant presentation to create a mystique that has nearly become legendary. After the Nation's implosion, three-fifths of the band teamed up with ex-Frumpies guitarist Michelle Mae to form the Make-Up. Rather than just continue on with the self-created "Ulysses Aesthetic," the four decided to go in a somewhat different direction. A direction called Gospel Yeh-Yeh.

On their live album After Dark, the Make-Up play rock and roll that is overflowing with jazz and punk tendencies. A strong rhythm section composed of Steve Gamboa on drums and Michelle Mae on bass consistently lay down a groove that makes a perfect foundation for James Canty's sparse guitar and organ work. While all the musicians in the band are impressive, Ian Svenonius is the star of this show. On tracks like "We Can't Be Contained," the music serves as nothing but a backdrop for his voice. The former NOU singer rants, raves, screams, and baby-talks the audience in attendance through a journey filled with faceless political enemies, lack of hope, and even the birth of a child (well, metaphorically, anyway). The band wants you to dance as much as they want you to listen to their front-man's hysterical preaching. They dubbed themselves Gospel Yeh-Yeh with good reason.

Your enjoyment of this album primarily hinges on what you think of Reverend Svenonius' performance. I could see his yelping beginning to wear on some people and he uses the words "yeah" and "baby" in every sentence, but I can't help but love the man's energy and passion for what he is saying. The Make-Up are a band whose music caters to audience participation. Their performances were as much about theater as music and the lack of that visual connection certainly doesn't serve the album well, but the music that is here is good enough to stand on its own. My personal favorite tracks are "Blue is Beautiful," "(Here Comes) The Judge," and the band's theme song, "Comedown" (in all three of its brief iterations on this disc).

After Dark is an entertaining listen. The production is great, so you can pick out every driving note of Michelle's precision bass work, and the energy of a live setting does wonders for Ian. Some points can drag a bit and Ian's tirades may wear thin on some, but in the end After Dark is still definitely worth your time, if only to hear an influential band's live show when they were still in their prime. Fans of Refused and T(I)NC should especially take note since Dennis Lyxzén just about owes his entire career to the NOU and its subsequent offspring.

So now all that's left is...can I hear you say "yeah!?"