Review Summary: We live in a high society
Before Enon, guitarist John Schermersal was in Brainiac, who were something of a pioneer of weird. Lo-fi creaking and erratic Vocoder effects accompanied Tim Taylor’s maniacal vocals, all underlaid by noisy, gleeful irreverence and an eye for futuristic camp. The latter would carry over into Enon, and is present on High Society
, but irreverence is by and large replaced with a disillusionment that is simultaneously jaded and bubbly. It’s hard to say whether High Society
, released sixteen years ago, was prescient or not: its somewhat abstract tales of privilege, dysfunctional bonds, and social aspiration are as relevant as ever in an age of social media, but then obtuseness tends to render things more applicable.
On the topic of futuristic camp: High Society
enjoys tumbling close to the uncanny valley, beaming eagerly with eyes too wide. Toko Yasuda’s light, girlish vocals are garnished with a slight robotic touch, the bubbling synths crunch and distort and evoke neon-coloured carbonated drinks. The bounce on tracks such as “Pleasure and Privilege” and “Disposable Parts” reaches near-preternatural levels. “Window Display”, at least on a surface interpretation, involves marrying a malfunctioning robot. One layer of High Society
is relentlessly effervescent, adopting characteristics of what it lampoons - for instance, “Disposable Parts”, whether it makes fun of hook-ups or consumerism, is honeyed and short-lived.
The incisiveness of the album isn’t necessarily immediate, even if its disillusionment is: “In This City” circles restlessly, pushing forward the perspective of a distraught, alienated foreigner caught in the glare of a modern city’s nightlights; “Diamond Raft” echoes emptily and with resigned finality. Any uneasy artificiality on High Society
is wholly deliberate, functioning as a part of its critique of disposability culture and social aspiration. “Sold!” is disquieting in its tale of deceptive marketing; “This business carbonation / less pop more fizz / coming over on the radio station”, “Carbonation” chants, whilst “High Society” is ambiguous in its stance towards a social climber: her act of “[paying] for dinner with $200 dollar bills” comes across unsympathetically, but the sheer emptiness of her life is pitiable. “Natural Disasters” more bluntly condemns the well-off; the plight of those outside the privileged bubble is attributed to natural reasons, becomes faultless and therefore not a moral imperative to address.
I think the album both adores and hates what luxury stands for: carefreeness, its inability to provide real fulfillment, the contemplation of finery and delicate things (see: the indulgent touches of strings and trumpet on the title track). That some can so easily possess an excess of such goods is construed as absurd, whimsical, a subject of both wonderment and disdain. The selfish figures, whose perspectives are satirically adopted, are almost lovingly caricatured, and the infectious hooks tend to soften the blow of the criticisms. In a way, High Society
’s sugary aesthetics pay unironic tribute to the shallow pleasures of life, to the joys of downing a cool, refreshing can of Coca Cola™. But in the end, the apocalyptic “Diamond Raft” drops all pretence of enjoying modern life’s luxuries, and pops the last bubble.