By Madison James, First Year Politics and French
Defying COVID-related pushbacks, I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME’s hotly anticipated debut album RAZZMATAZZ follows their promising EP 1981 Extended Play.
Through their carefully crafted personas, iDKHOW, a duo comprised of vocalist Dallon Weekes and drummer Ryan Seaman (formally of Panic! At the Disco) take us back in time to the synth-filled world of the 80s, styling themselves as previously undiscovered musical legacies of the era as their name suggests.
On the surface fun and flamboyant, but with palpable dark undertones, RAZZMATAZZ unites the frivolous and melancholic, the vintage and the modern, to create a stunning body of work that will attract fans of The Killers and The 1975.
The project opens with the single ‘Leave Me Alone’, released back in August - Our first taste of the sound the duo was aiming for. Incredibly danceable, with an 80s disco vibe, its driving beat is punctuated by glittery synth and Weekes’ soaring vocals. One could be forgiven for overlooking the song’s darker nuances on first listen.
Fierce, bitter and dripping with sarcasm, overtly provocative metaphors like ‘go fly a kite until you’re tangled in the hanging tree’ do nothing to conceal Weekes’ cynicism. He has made no secret of his distaste of Hollywood’s superficial culture, previously articulated on the track ‘Social Climb’, but iDKHOW catapults the listener into another level of cutthroat acerbity from the very beginning of the album.
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‘Mad IQs’ continues the theme of breaking away from LA’s vapid music industry, combining a catchy chorus with deliciously dark lyricism; an iDKHOW trademark, following on from success of hugely popular ‘Choke’. One of the strongest tracks on the album, it leans heavily on its electronic influences, paying homage to the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Of Montreal.
Fans will be pleasantly surprised to discover the inclusion of ‘Nobody Likes the Opening Band’, previously only available as a music video and download. The brazenly extravagant ballad boasts Weekes’ impeccable vocals, as well as the tongue in cheek lyrics that have made it a solid fan favourite at gigs and festivals.
Though confusingly lumped between songs that couldn’t sound more different to this stripped back, piano based effort, the track continues the album’s clear criticism of the music industry by highlighting the hierarchy that exists between smaller and bigger artists, without sounding overly preachy or contrived - In fact, it has fun doing so.
While the main body of the album is very strong, some tracks can tip over into being slightly formulaic and repetitive. ‘From The Gallows’ takes on a fresher, more experimental twist, combining melodic retro-modernity with a bizarre robotic spoken word tangent before building up to a Queen-esque crescendo.
A short but powerful release of energy, ‘Clusterhug’ channels Weekes’ former work with The Brobecks through its chaotic, cymbal-crashing indie rock sound. Conversely, ‘Sugar Pills’ is a classic radio-friendly pop banger: though more forgettable than other tracks, it borders on twee while still maintaining iDKHOW’s fun, danceable vibe.
The album dips a little towards the end; although the lilting piano parts and quirky use of spoken word sets it apart, ‘Need You Here’ leans too heavily on iDKHOW’s former pop punk roots and lacks their idiosyncratic melodies and lyricism.
‘‘Razzmatazz’, the final track, is what lifts the album to new heights, providing a cutting social commentary amidst the explosive harmonies and sax solos.’
On the surface, iDKHOW’s sound has hardly shifted since 1981 Extended Play was released, except to truly push the 80s theme: the album tips over into a near caricature of the era at times. However, RAZZMATAZZ has a clear and cohesive message, marking the duo out as so much more than just a Panic! side group.
Dispelling any previous doubts, it’s obvious that they have no desire to reach the same dizzying heights of fame, especially within the trappings of the industry that they’re so heavily critical of. They just make great music, in all its colourful, ostentatious glory.
Featured: Fearless Records
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