Ian Svenonius’ stage presence is the stuff of legend. “He yowled, he jumped, his suit was ludicrous, he tortured his guitar with chicken-scratch Gang of Four violence,” Vice said of a recent show by his new solo project, Escape-ism. “Within two choruses, he had the first twenty rows singing call-and-response to songs that they’d never heard before.” He was named Sassy Magazine’s “Sassiest Boy in America” in 1991, and no one since has seriously challenged him for that title.
After thirty years of playing in nearly a dozen different bands (Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Scene Creamers, Chain and the Gang, Weird War, and XYZ, just to sample), Escape-ism is Svenonius’ first foray into true solo territory. It’s just him, a guitar shaping catchy riffs, a tape player playing backing tracks, and a drum machine locked to its most primitive setting. The “band” may be named after James Brown’s 1971 scorcher, but its musical DNA comes from the minimalist beats and prophetic lyrics of Suicide.
Throughout Escape-ism’s Merge Records debut, Introduction to Escape-ism, Svenonius uses his distinctive voice (equally comfortable in an Alan Vega monotone or a squirming Prince falsetto) to explore some of his favorite themes: the revolution to come, the pitfalls of consumer capitalism, the dream of escaping suburban hellscapes. Svenonius has earned and maintained a reputation as one of post-punk’s preeminent barker of surrealist politics, and, from the stage, he will make you a quick convert.