Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Special Interest Endure

Rough Trade
Rough Trade

Lots of artists have crossed punk rock with dance music over the years, but Special Interest still make it feel like a revolution. Stated crudely, the New Orleans combo thrusts together the insurgent anger of the former and the radical joy of the latter, coming away with a boisterous, exhilarating racket. Against that canvas, frontperson Alli Logout careens from a rabble-rousing bark to churchy diva wailing and back, like Zack de la Rocha and Martha Wash emanating from the same essence. Sometimes bandmates Nathan Cassiani (bass), Maria Elena (guitar), and Ruth Mascelli (electronics) raise their voices too, exemplifying the camaraderie and solidarity at the core of Special Interest’s music. Their songs tend to resolve into big shout-along hooks and slogans without oversimplifying for immediacy’s sake.

Special Interest broke through to new levels of visibility with their 2020 full-length The Passion Of, a perfect album for at a time when people were cooped up due to COVID and public outrage over our society’s treatment of marginalized communities was running hot. Logout, also a filmmaker and performance artist, has expressed ambivalence about their creative community being “capitalized on in really scary and intense ways that we weren’t anticipating because everybody wants to hear a Black queer story,” but The Passion Of and Special Interest’s 2018 debut Spiraling were resonant for many listeners in a way that transcended buzz words and trending topics. And since there’s never any shortage of struggles to overcome, it only makes sense that they’d return with an album called Endure.

That same pandemic summer when The Passion Of was catching on, Special Interest went to work on Endure — their first LP for Rough Trade, out this week. As the band tells it, they responded to the moment in disparate ways, sometimes with angry outbursts and other times by conjuring euphoria as a respite from the bad vibes. The album toggles between those modes and occasionally blurs the lines between them. The implication: It takes both communal love and weaponized indignation to overcome life’s obstacles, especially for those on the outside looking in.

Endure begins with “Cherry Blue Intention,” a rousing uptempo track on which Logout announces, “OK, alright, OK, alright, let’s ride,” over skittering hi-hats and propulsive bass. It ends with a skronking, pounding eight-minute epic called “LA Blues,” in which they declare, in pointed staccato falsetto, “If you don’t like it, you can fuck right off.” The intervening tracklist feels like a dancefloor and a battlefield. In either context Cassiani’s aggro bass work could be seen as a secret weapon, except it’s too prominent in Special Interest’s arsenal to be considered a secret. Logout isn’t the only one slinging hooks in this band.

Endure is a less sonically abrasive album than The Passion Of, though no less confrontational in disposition. Some of the accessibility can be chalked up to Logout’s expanded vocal arsenal. As they recently explained to DIY, while touring Europe they visited Berlin’s famed dance club Berghain and met Kelela, who had a profound impact on their approach. “She said something to me that really stuck, which was about learning how to push with your voice,” Logout said. “I learned to move people more with my voice, rather than with the high energy performances that we’re used to doing. The last tour we did, it was like, ‘Oh, OK, we can do all of this; we can have these insanely high-energy shows, but I can also just sit back and sing and just feel it and move people in that way.'”

Endure applies that practice to the studio. There are still barbed rallying cries like “Concerning Peace,” with its savvy double entendre of a title and rapid spoken asides that remind me of System Of A Down’s “Prison Song.” Here Logout and their compatriots rail against big-picture problems, breathlessly asserting, “Violence/ In its complexity/ Is the only tool/ Against indignity!” But Endure also has songs like the Mykki Blanco collab “Midnight Legend,” on which snaking bass and glitzy keyboards become a launchpad for a celebratory nightlife portrait topped off with some of Logout’s most infectious melodies. “Midnight legend,” they tenderly declare. “Look at you!”

Between those poles are tracks like “(Herman’s) House,” a song deeply rooted in the band’s home city. It tells the story of Black revolutionary Herman Wallace of the Angola Three, who was held in solitary confinement for more than 40 years after being convicted of killing a prison guard and died of cancer just days after a judge overturned his sentence. During his imprisonment, Wallace corresponded with artist Jackie Sumell, who built a full-scale model of his dream home as an art installation. In “(Herman’s) House,” that story becomes a metaphor for the potential to manifest your big ideas. Nasty distorted bass and vogue-ready house piano are carried along by the beat as Logout digs into the grittiest corners of their range, howling with a passion that obliterates the borders between singing and shouting, anguish and ecstasy: “Build it out like Herman’s house!”

Special Interest have often billed their aesthetic as no wave gone glam, but Logout’s expressive belting adds new dimensions to that identity. Specifically, the increase in melodious vocals brings into focus new parallels with peers like Algiers, another band that slathers its mechanistic clatter with soulful bluster, or even TV On The Radio, whose soundscapes similarly evoked a post-industrial wasteland. I hear echoes of dance-punk acts like Le Tigre, Gossip, and early Liars in Special Interest’s sound too, as well as queer Southern party-rockers the B-52’s and noise-bombed hip-hop revolutionaries Public Enemy. Yet Special Interest are so confident and irreducibly complex that they feel one-of-a-kind. There is more than one way to endure, and this album seems like it will stand the test of time.

Endure is out 11/4 on Rough Trade.

Other albums of note out this week:

• Drake & 21 Savage’s Her Loss
• Phoenix’s Alpha Zulu
• The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack
• Boldy James’ Mr. Ten08
• R.A.P. Ferreira’s 5 To The Eye With Stars
• Fleshwater’s We’re Not Here To Be Loved
• Wizkid’s More Love, Less Ego
• First Aid Kit’s Palomino
• Turnover’s Myself In The Way
• Horse Lords’ Comradely Objects
• Okay Kaya’s SAP
• Big Joanie’s Back Home
• Gold Dust’s The Late Great Gold Dust
• Carla dal Forno’s Come Around
• The Smile/Sons Of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner’s Voices Of Bishara
• Queens Of The Stone Age member Dean Fertita’s solo debut Tropical Gothclub
• Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett’s Head Full Of Wonder
• Yonatan Gat’s American Quartet
• Metro Boomin’s Heroes & Villains
• Julien Chang’s The Sale
• Coco & Clair Clair’s Sexy
• µ-Ziq’s Hello
• Old Fire’s guest-heavy Voids
• Daniel Avery’s Ultra Truth
• Franz Nicolay’s New River
• The Welcome Wagon’s Esther
• Born Without Bones’ Dancer
• La Femme’s Teatro Lucido
• Ghost Orchard’s Rainbow Music
• Brothertiger’s Brothertiger
• R.A.M.B.O.’s Defy Extinction
• Glen Phillips’ There Is So Much Here
• Surf Gang’s At Least We Tried
• Froglord’s Army Of Frogs
• Caleb Landry Jones’ Gadzooks Vol. 2
• Taipei Houston’s Once Bit Never Bored
• PJ Harvey’s B-sides, Demos And Rarities
• Spice Girls’ Spiceworld 25
• The first week release of Tinariwen’s Kel Tinariwen
• John Mellencamp’s Scarecrow (Deluxe)
• Spoon Vs. On-U Sound’s Lucifer On The Moon
• Barbra Streisand’s Live At Bon Soir
• Scott Weiland’s posthumous The Most Wondeful Time Of The Year (Deluxe)
• Alicia Keys’ Santa Baby
• VOIVOD’s Ultraman EP
• Mount Kimbie’s MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning
• Andy Bell’s The Grounding Process EP
• Squeeze’s Food For Thought EP

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