Special Interest: Endure Album Review

November 4, 2022 - Uncategorized

In a big enough mosh pit, the world jostles loose. You enter the pit as one person, and you leave as someone else. The late queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz described this transformation as a portal in his 2009 book Cruising Utopia. “I remember the sexually ambiguous punk clubs of my youth where horny drunk punk boys rehearsed their identities, aggressively dancing with one another and later lurching out, intoxicated, to the parking lot together,” he wrote. “For many of them, the mosh pit was not simply a closet; it was a utopian subcultural rehearsal space.” In the squall of the music, reality starts to split and curl. Through communal, friendly violence, punks build muscle memory of what it’s like to feel unhinged and cared for at the same time. The thrash of bodies clears a channel, however fleeting, into a more survivable life.

Special Interest drill down into that same molten core. Across three ferocious albums, the New Orleans band traces the line where the thirst for a new world meets the rage that torches the old one. Lit up and led by searingly charismatic singer Alli Logout, they call out the stakes of the era as they see them, excoriating gentrifiers, cops, warmongers, and trust-fund art-school kids with keenly tuned sneers. Songs about bracing for revolution brush up against songs about great sex on great drugs. Running on the tireless engine of Ruth Mascelli’s clattering drum machine, they follow in a legacy of queer perturbations from the ’80s and ’90s that include Coil, Frankie Knuckles, and the B-52’s—all of whom, in their own way, worked with the same mix of political dissatisfaction, biting humor, and erotic fantasy. On their third album, Endure, Special Interest push their sound to both its bleakest and its sweetest brinks. Pop, disco, and house all melt into their reliably raucous glam punk, and questions of communal caretaking press against a grief-riddled apocalyptic outlook. This time around, their thorns drip with honey.

Across Endure, Special Interest embellish the cornerstones they established on 2018’s Spiralling and 2020’s The Passion Of with gestures that wouldn’t sound out of place on ’90s radio. The after-dark sounds of house and techno started spilling onto commercial daytime airwaves toward the end of the last millennium, many of them drifting onto the Top 40 from overseas in the pan-flash genre called Eurodance. Logout stretches into certain vocal timbres and minor-key intervals that echo the perfect, ephemeral dance pop of a group like La Bouche, while behind their voice, delicate piano lines fringe the band’s hard-driving foundation. These shifts clear more air around Special Interest’s sound. While certain moments still feel immediate and unignorable, others seem to waft out from a club’s open back door, beckoning passersby to come take a closer look.

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