If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em

Weird War

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If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em Review

by Heather Phares

Originally the name of Ian Svenonius, Michelle Mae, and Neil Hagerty's supergroup, Weird War became the name of Svenonius and Mae's other post-Make-Up band when a group of French graffiti artists claimed the rights to the name the Scene Creamers. Fittingly enough, Weird War's second album, If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em, plays like a cross between the first Weird War album's conceptual noodling and the more focused psych-funk-rock of the Scene Creamers' I Suck on That Emotion. Regardless of its name, the band is just as weird as ever, applying freaky garage-funk to sex and politics; while Weird War's approach and themes could be considered repetitive at this point, the band still sounds like no one else. If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em finds Weird War continuing to follow their bliss, particularly on "Tess," a psych pop ode to Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and "Music for Masturbation," the aptly wanky, slightly creepy monologue that opens the album and sets the stage for its sexual/political manifestos. A stoned vibe permeates the whole affair like a cloud of pot smoke, for better and worse; it works well on "One by One," a ballad that quotes Pink Floyd in its music and Chairman Mao in its lyrics, and also, obviously, on "Store Bought Pot." However, it blunts (so to speak) the impact of some of the harder songs, such as "Licking Stick," "Moment in Time," and "Chemical Rank," all of which end up sounding more than a little formless. Despite its lazy haze, If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em has a few standout moments: "AK-47" is the album's clearest statement of intent, uniting revolutionary fervor and the urge to get up and dance. "NDSP" blurs the boundaries of sex and power, repeating the phrase "sexual Palestine" like a mantra over tumbling drums. Not surprisingly, the title track is the album's best, offering the lean, muscular rhythms and witty wordplay that should've been on more of If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em; however, the guest vocal by Jennifer Herrema (billed here as JJ Rox) almost redeems the rest of the album by itself. Neither the best nor the worst chapter in Svenonius and Mae's career, If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em is often frustratingly and surprisingly lukewarm, especially considering the triumphs of their previous bands.

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