What must the world look like to Enon mastermind John Schmersal? We've always known that his particular worldview verges on the outlandish (see Brainiac's Hissing Prigs in Static Couture
), but even his vastly underrated yet opulent former outfit pales in comparison to Enon's kaleidoscopic and sometimes downright perplexing post-millennial pop-nouveau. Perhaps the current state of world affairs has transformed Schmersal's hopes and dreams into pure saccharine sweetness, thus streamlining Hocus-Pocus
into a derisive and exasperatingly tuneful antidote to the self-referential misery of Dashboard Confessional and his legions of tattooed acolytes.
Whittled down to a sleek trio, Enon trade less on decipherable lyrical witticisms than obliquely fascinating pop-hop that's equal parts ironic revelry and swaggering boho cool. A party for party's sake still amounts to a good time, and with that in mind, "Murder Sounds" and "UTZ" are fete soundtrack fodder par excellence. Though Enon seem delightfully chipper in their new, festive trews, you must be careful not to mistake the group's embrace of blithe aesthetics for mindless media pandering; they haven't dumbed down their songwriting approach one bit. Their fizzy confections still bristle with the same unfettered enthusiasm for retro kitsch, only now they come wrapped in a timeless pop sheen and confetti-sprinkled sharpness that's as inscrutable as it is enchanting.
Meticulously pored over and refined, Hocus-Pocus is far and away the most cohesive disc of the group's career. The wildly oscillating stylistic extremes for which Enon has become known remain, but where past efforts often sounded like the work of four or five different bands crammed onto one disc, the solidified trio of Schmersal, Schultz and Yasuda now has a singular sonic vision. The dicey blip-hop of "Shave" dives directly into "The Power of Yawning"'s merciless cadence and lightning strike guitars, while the reckless trash-pop of "Litter in the Gutter" gently gives way to the sparse acoustic melancholy and melt-in-your-mouth melodies of the title track. Not every tune is a blinding nugget of juicy futuro-pop or a skittering guitar-driven dirge, but each one holds its place within the album's context.
Hocus-Pocus probably won't turn the pop world on its ear -- or even the indie world, for that matter -- but its seamless combination of chic urban style and bare-bones substance will long serve as a reminder that the two factions can merge harmoniously.