I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness - Fear is on Our Side

Does anyone remember the album, The Many Facets of Roger… that came out waaaay back in ‘81? The Roger in question is Roger Troutman, who along with his band, Zapp, an influential funk band of the late 70’s, was hand-picked by George Clinton as an addition to his personal record label. The Many Facets of Roger… was Troutman’s first solo effort, and though technically a quality funk record, had quite possibly the world’s worst album cover ever, featuring six Rogers in sequined leisure suits, each mugging with goofy abandon.
Oh that Roger and his many facets!

For some reason, when I listen to a band such as I Love You, But I’ve Chosen Darkness, I can’t help but think of Roger. Yes, they are critical darlings and quasi-celebrities in their hometown of Austin, Texas. Yes, they have put out a quality first LP that I know I should take VERY seriously, and analyze VERY closely because it is very dark and IMPORTANT. But you know what? When I listen to this record, I envision an album cover a la Roger called The Many Facets of Joy Division. The cover would feature different bands mugging darkly, SERIOUSLY for the camera: spotlight on Interpol in the top left corner; Editors lurking in the shadowy middle; The Bravery begging for attention; She Wants Revenge moping in a corner somewhere, The Walkmen smiling in a stoned indie-scenster fashion; and of course… ILYBICD jumping about excitedly as the newest in post-punk critical darlings. Just one big, happy post-punk revivalist family.

In all seriousness, I like this album. ILYBICD have got the moody, introspective, atmospheric thing down pat. If I heard Fear is on Our Side playing in the background at a party, I might ask, “Hey, who are these guys? They’re pretty good.” But almost as likely, I would assume that they were simply Interpol/Bravey/Walkmen and would blindly appreciate their dark, sweeping sound.

I don’t think that ILYBICD has “stolen” anyone’s sound per se, but they’re not doing anything terribly original, either. Before I get too harsh, I will give credit where credit is due. The band has developed friends in high places. Their first EP, which was released in 2003, was produced by Spoon’s Britt Daniel, and featured five stand-out indie-rock tracks that were both a bit dancier and a bit poppier than Fear is on Our Side. The combination of Daniel + catchy tracks + impressive live performances helped cultivate a cult following for the band in their native Texas. Their eye-catching name, what I can only assume is a tongue-in-cheek homage to their friends and fellow Austinites, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, was on the tips of critics tongues for months, yet the group took nearly three years to finish up their first full length release.

Fear is on Our Side was produced by yet another big name in the rock business: the former bassist of industrial staples, Ministry, Paul Barker. When Barker left Ministry two years ago, he told MTV of his anticipated solo and production efforts, “I wanna make big, ugly, heavy music because that’s what I love. But it’s pop music… it’s not abstract and experimental.”

Well, two out of four ain’t bad. While I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness’ sound may indeed be big and poppy in an “epic chronicle of all things Ian Curtis” type of way, it is neither heavy nor is it in any way ugly. It has a shadowy sheen to it… a smoothness that certain other post-punk outfits attempt to attain, but merely stumble over in a herky-jerky fashion. Lead vocalist, Christian Goyer, is a surprisingly talented, versatile singer, and apparently an exceedingly humble guy, as there are many moments throughout the album where I want to scream, “Speak up for the love of GOD!!” Lyrics, while occasionally discernable, are mostly mumbled… though admittedly, it is a lovely, sigh-worthy mumbling. Goyer also lends a hand on guitar, adding layers to the moody soundscape created by lead guitarist one, Ernest Salaz, and lead guitarist two, Daniel Favero. On certain songs such as “We Choose Faces,” it is evident that there is indeed a lot of guitar work going on, as well as some stellar mixing, but for the most part one has to wonder: is three really necessary? Edward Robert on bass and Tim White on drums round out the rhythmic side of ILYBICD, and while they are sufficient, I hear few beats that I find particularly unique and/or dance worthy.

Stand-out tracks include, “Last Ride Together,” with its intensely ethereal “Give yourself a minute to catch your breath” chorus. Goyer’s voice stands out a bit more on this track, and for some reason, sounds a bit British/Irish - dare I say, “Bono-esque”? Other notables include “Untitled” and “According to Plan.” “Untitled” begins with a pleasing guitar tapping and flows into a chorus eerily reminiscent of The Chameleons. It then darts into a wonderful instrumental break that augments Goyers haunting cry, “I push, you pull….hrmmphmmmumble.” Oh if only I could understand! “According to Plan,” begins with an industrial bass/guitar riff and dissipates into a dreamy guitar-drenched chorus, where Goyer laments, again mostly incoherently, about a theoretical “perfect world.” Nice use of maracas, guys. They are indeed an oft-neglected instrument.

While ILYBICD won’t be winning any album of the year awards, they definitely deserve a listen. Despite my many criticisms, this IS the band’s first full-length effort, and fans of the modern post-punk movement will be extraordinarily pleased. The band has much room to grow, and I look forward to future efforts where they can perhaps develop a more unique, personal, and intelligible sound of their very own.

--Courtney Wachs

Release Date: March 7, 2006

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