Review, IVERSON's EP Blue

Review, IVERSON’s EP Blue

Do you remember when the indie world eschewed flamboyance? When showiness and gaudiness and a sense of humor was antithetical to cool? It was the early- to mid-2000s and all the big rock bands had a muted dimly-lit atmosphere paired with a simmering slackadaisical attitude. Interpol. Garage rock. The Strokes. New York… all those associations rolled up into a ball of grey matter wearing sunglasses and a denim jacket. I was 15 and avoided any guitar-based band that didn’t have goofy synths and colorful album art. I really liked the Unicorns. You know how it goes.

Iverson 2.0’s debut EP makes me happy that that era of indie coolness is in the past. The Chicago-based group, comprised of Alec Watson, Luc Parcell, Ethan Parcell, Charles Iverson, and Gene Knific (full disclosure: a close friend of mine), dubs itself a synth-pop band, which only feels half-accurate. Sure, their songs are dripping with laser-edged synth glissandos and slap bass and 80s pop callbacks, but their main draw isn’t something retro or textural or dreamy. On their debut EP, they get by on pure personality and exuberance, unafraid to aim directly for the bleachers in every song.

Single “Time Distance” showcases this approach with aplomb. Opening with what could pass for a melody from the Sonic the Hedgehog OST, the song segues quickly through shimmering layered melodies and almost immediately into a sailing chorus that recalls something like Prince meets Ducktails. Lead singer Iverson’s dramatic and pliable voice risks being overtaken at all times by the stacks of day-glo synths that support him, and indeed by the end of the track, everything is swallowed by a wall of screeching sound as the main melody line disintegrates into cartoon noises. It’s a fully-realized tune that feels somehow is at once unique, retro, stage- and radio-ready.

Iverson 2.0 is at their best when they let their exuberance blast directly through the core of any 80s pastiche they might be half-consciously constructing. In “Stand Up,” when Iverson sings about “never losing the fight,” it’s delivered with a conviction and forcefulness that pushes past its eye-of-the-tiger-ness and into the genuinely exciting. Squint and it sounds like a throwback, but taken as a fuller picture, it’s clearly doing its own thing.

It’s not all flashing disco lights, either: the EP does exhibit a sense of range and a willingness to wander. “Eternal Light” melts into a swirling pool of synth ambiance, serving as a welcome breather amidst the propulsive ruckus. It’s actually one of my favorite moments on the EP, as it creates a sort of tension that isn’t shown anywhere else in the collection. Elsewhere their closer and slowburn-ballad “Fate” is melodically solid, but it almost scans as bland compared to their stage-ready anthems, and lyrically it doesn’t establish the above-mentioned momentum needed to create a convincing moment of certitude.

Those are minor gripes for a debut EP that matches musicianship and songwriting chops with a clear vision. Iverson is already at 2.0, and I think that’s only the beginning. I’ll be waiting patiently on the dancefloor for the next updates.