Here's hoping Jeremy Enigk's mother likes his new album. He made it with her — or people like her — in mind. Says Enigk, "What I was going for is a rock record but something more accessible than `Return of the` Frog Queen or Sunny Day `Real Estate, the seminal post-punk band he fronted`. Something that sounded a little more polished, something my mom could get into." And 'tis true, World Waits, Jeremy Enigk's second solo album, is more polished than his 1996 solo debut, Return of the Frog Queen, and it is more "accessible" than his work with Sunny Day Real Estate or his other group, the Fire Theft.
Enigk still sings as if he were writhing on the floor trying to slither away from a burning building, only now the music sounds as if it were brewing from a cathedral where Coldplay and U2 set up their equipment for the night. It is grand. It is anthemic. But is it music for a mother to love?
Look up Jeremy Enigk on any music resource site and you'll learn that he's one of the "emo" movement's leading men. What this actually means is even lost to some extent on Enigk, for at this point, "emo" has come to define everything from the stripped-down passion of D.C.'s Rites of Spring to the hair-in-face rockers who auto-tune their harmonies and scream their heartbreak on corporate-sponsored stages the world over. The original intention of "emo" had something to do with the idea that it was "emotional" music, as if Miles Davis — and just about anyone who made a record before this movement — wouldn't have put a foot through your ass if you suggested his music didn't somehow involve human emotion.
Enigk spots the absurdity as well. "I've never owned that whole label of ‘emo,'" he says. "The press and the fans did create that. I never set out to create a genre or be considered the creator of a genre. I just started a band to set out and play music. It's one of those things where, all right, that's what people want to say, well, I have no power over that. I'm not going to fight it. I'm not emo, I'm just rock & roll."
If any label applies to Jeremy Enigk, it would be "perfectionist." He recently completed a tour that originally had been intended to happen after his album came out. However, Enigk couldn't finish the record in time. There were too many nagging spots that needed working over. Booked, the tour went off as planned, though Enigk admits, "It was like a Spinal Tap mistake."
World Waits is not cursed with any similar gaffes. Albums, like diamonds, are forever; Enigk is quite conscious of this, driving himself hard to complete his second solo album in a decade.
"There were just a few things that weren't finished, so I just said, ‘It has to be just right,'" he says. "I took my time mixing it and fixing a few vocal lines. I've always been intense about `recording`. I've mellowed out over the years. When I first started I was extremely uptight and could be somewhat of a control freak in the studio. But these days it's just not worth the headache. The more I grow up, the more I trust people and trust their opinion and it takes a huge weight off my shoulders."
But when I ask Enigk if he's satisfied with the final results, there is a slight pause and, as you'll see, his answer is not the sound of a satisfied perfectionist, but that of a perfectionist coming to grips with the limits and laws of human nature.
"I'm happy that it's out," he says. "I don't want to be working on it, even though I would. I was listening to it last night and there were parts I wish I had changed. But in the end, when I turned the record in, I was happy. It's the best I can do.
"I wish I was a writer like Bob Dylan, who just has this incredible ability to rhyme and at the same time be extremely wise. I really admire his writing. I wish I was more — a better writer. But I am what I am. I just do the best I can and accept it."email@example.com
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