[In the Red; 2007]
As a title for the Intelligence's third album, Deuteronomy hints that it's time to lay down some laws in frontman Lars Finberg's recurring dystopian mayhem. Most notable for contributing vitriolic vocals to post-apocalyptic fetishists the A-Frames, the multi-instrumentalist Finberg has quit his job as doomsday herald to devote undivided attention towards Intelligence, which had previously subsisted on scrappy home recordings and spotty touring. Recorded in an actual studio, Deuteronomy's easily Finberg's tidiest, most civilized work, and it even retains most of his signature post-punk bile. Whereas his previous catalog glorified a cinematic, Terminator-like take on the future, here he's channeling something more like Total Recall or "Futurama"-- society's not succumbing to chaos, but it's rife with some pretty fucked up elements.
Finberg's clearly earned his lambskin from the school of asshole rock, and recent tour dates with the Fall have only amplified his Mark E. Smith malaise. Deuteronomy's filled with uncharacteristically catchy songs for Finberg, many of them reminiscent of the Fall circa Grotesque (After the Gramme), the Cramps' mutant rockabilly, or Brainiac's surf cyborg wipeout. However, despite an array of ear-grabbing instrumentation and Finberg's frugal use of yelling and screaming, the vocals make a concerted effort not to touch upon any accessible melodies. The easy-going ditty "Tubes", for example, bops along an organ vamp copping "96 Tears", but instead of climaxing at a hummable chorus, the song peaks with Finberg shrieking a nasally "Fuck!"
Oddly enough, Finberg cites the Zombies and Bee Gees as Deuteronomy's key influences, a statement that initially sounds ridiculous until you realize how loose and playful the album is in relation to earlier works. "Secret Signals" begins like so much garden variety post-punk getting exorcised these days-- the drums/bass/guitar arrangement sterile and predictable, the rhythm stubbornly four-on-the-floor-- but then Finberg unleashes a bluesy, chopped-up chorus that's probably his best approximation of a song like "Care of Cell 44"'s complex chord changes. Some tracks here, when stripped of their strident noise rock exterior, even resemble some of rock's earliest and kookiest personalities. The eerie haunted house organ on "Block of Ice" and "How to Improve Your Hearing Without Listening"-- coupled with Finberg's crazed howls-- channels Screamin' Jay Hawkins, while the cosmic surf riffs on "Our Solar System" and "The Outer Echelon" recall so many 60s sci-fi program themes.
Despite the newfound color in his songwriting, Finberg's still pissed off as ever. Unlike previous releases, though, Deuteronomy doesn't feel like one homogeneous rant, but rather a newly reformed psychopath hesitantly giving society a second chance. His scowl's always been equal parts tongue-in-cheek and fury, but Finberg really sounds like he's having fun here and, when the rhythm moves him, sexy to boot. Rising from the ashes of Finberg's apocalyptic oeuvre, the revamped Intelligence has become the best display of the journeyman's talents to date, worthy of being elevated from pet project to full-time gig.
-Adam Moerder, January 14, 2008